Election Notes 1
There have been more polls than ever before in this election, and for all the slim differences between them they are all pointing to no overall majority for either main party. Hence, of course, all the chatter about whom might deal with whom on May 8th onwards. You can take your pick of the various conglomerate polls being issued on a daily basis. The UK Polling Report comes from a Yougov expert; May2015, the special election site set up by the New Statesman, provides exhaustive polling commentary; and three university academics update their election forecast regularly too. But the BBC and pretty well all of the press feature regular poll tracking. In the end, this is a parlour game for observers like us, and once May 8th comes around all of the polls that have been keeping us entertained and fascinated in the election period are reduced to utter irrelevance.
The Forecast - Who Will be PM?
So we can probably guess either Cameron or Miliband, barring a sudden change in party leader to facilitate better coalition deals, but which one of them eventually governs from No 10 is virtually impossible to predict, and may still be a mystery several days beyond the election. Given the likely outlay of votes for their own parties, the next PM will have to be the one who is most likely to garner a workable coalition, and it has to be said that Ed Miliband does look a more likely bet than David Cameron. The problem for Cameron is that there is only one party he can realistically do a deal with, and that will be the much reduced Lib Dems. Even that opiton is hardly a certainty. For all the success of the Coalition, a large group of Tory MPs have been consistently chafing against it and might be expected to try and torpedo any future arrangement. From the Lib Dem side, many of their activists have been similarly put off any more coalitions, especially given the look of their own reduced circumstances in parliament as a result. Add to this the uncertainty of Nick Clegg's return to the Commons, or that of the only other feasible Lib Dem leader who would favour coalition with the Tories, Danny Alexander, and even the Lib Dem option doesn't look particularly good for Cameron. A Tim Farron leadership, for example, would be much more susceptible to Labour's wooing. Cameron's best chance of governing is obviously to achieve a majority, but present polling evidence suggests this is well nigh impossible.
Ed Miliband, conversely, has a number of options to consider. As well as the Lib Dems, he can rely on some acquiescence from the SNP, however much he may try and puncture the idea pre-election. Any Green or Plaid Cymru MPs might similarly be inclined to give a Miliband government a working chance, as would Northern Ireland's SDLP MPs. The May 2015 site considers the options in a detailed look at likely seat outcomes here. Dan Hodges in the Telegraph takes issue with their reasoning here.
A Question of Legitimacy
British prime ministers have rarely encountered problems of legitimacy, but the tightness of this race, and the prospect of a second placed Ed Miliband taking office has certainly produced some debate about whether a leader who is placed second in both votes and seats would be legitimate. The New Statesman's George Eaton considers the dilemma here, while the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland seeks to challenge the narrative of legitimacy here. On the BBC site, meanwhile, James Landale offers up several scenarios on legitimacy. The most conicse, and most robust, response, however, is probably that stated by Dan Hodges. He says simply (and accurately):
The rules of our political system are clear. We were offered a chance to change them in 2011, and we politely declined. All that matters is the parliamentary arithmetic. If Ed Miliband has enough votes to win a confidence motion, and David Cameron does not, Ed Miliband is prime minister. No caveats. No debates. No “battles over legitimacy”. If Miliband wins, he wins.