At 3:44 PM on 4th Feb 2015, Kezia Dugdale, deputy leader of Scottish Labour, tweeted “FACT: The biggest party gets to form the next government”, added the hashtag #voteSNPgetTories, and a link to a Youtube video on the Scottish Labour Party channel.
While “Vote SNP Get Tories” is a valid slogan for the Labour Party to use – a tad simplistic, given the options of the Sorting Hat, but valid electioneering – to claim as “fact” that the party with the most seats gets to form the next government is wilfully misleading.
As Dugdale would have found had she looked Hung Parliament up on the UK Parliament website, the rules are as follows (if there is no party with an overall majority):
The incumbent party can try to continue to govern with a minority of MPs, and they can be allowed a period of negotiation to try to build a coalition. This is the Slytherin option.
If it’s clear that the incumbent Prime Minister cannot command the confidence of the House – if the Conservatives fail to gain a majority and can’t build a coalition – then
the leader of the largest opposition party may be invited to form a government and may do so either as a minority or in coalition with another party or parties.
As the second heading down on that page about Hung Parliaments asks and answers, the party with the largest number of seats is not automatically the party that gets to form a government.
Will the party with the most seats form a Government?
In order to form a Government, a party must be able to command a majority in the House of Commons on votes of confidence and supply. This majority can include support from other political parties, whether or not there is a formal coalition arrangement.
In a situation of no overall control the Government in power before the General Election gets the first chance at creating a government. If they cannot do so, the Prime Minister will resign.
If the Ashcroft polls in the news today prove a true guide to the results of the general election, whether Tories or Labour are the largest party in Parliament, neither will have an overall majority, the LibDems won’t have enough MPs to be coalition partners to either party, and the SNP won’t offer a coalition to the Tories…. so the only party standing in the way of a Hufflepuff coalition would be Labour, it seems.
But to be clear; the incumbent party always has first chance at forming a government after a general election that results in a hung parliament. That’s the Tories.
The second chance to form a government in those circumstances is offered to the leader of the Opposition party with the most seats – that’ll be Labour.
When Kezia Dugdale claims as “fact” that “the biggest party gets to form the next government” she isn’t electioneering: she is just plain wrong.
I find that the claim “the biggest party gets to form a government” is a factual inaccuracy being directly promoted by Scottish Labour via this infogram.
It’s still not true.