First-past-the-post voting systems don’t lend themselves to coalition government. But that’s what we’ve got, and there are four possible governments we could have after the General Election on 7th May 2015.
How we vote on that Thursday in just over three months time has very little to do with the government we’ll end up with. The rise in support for the Greens across the UK no more translates into increased numbers of MPs than the rise of support for UKIP means they’ll become a major party.
But the SNP are likely to be the third or fourth largest party in Westminster after May 2015. Electoral analysis shows a huge swing to the SNP across Scotland, which – if we had a more representative electoral system – could translate to over forty seats for the SNP (Labour down to seven MPs and LibDems to one), But just as the tremendous fall in LibDem support isn’t likely to be reflected in an equivalent loss of seats – Greens are more popular than LibDems but aren’t likely to do more than retain their one MP – the Labour wipeout isn’t expected to be as extreme as a naive reading of the polling figures would suggest.
Toscafund, an established asset manager based in London and Dubai, chaired by former Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Sir George Mathewson, commissioned Professor Richard Rose to carry out seat by seat analysis of polling across the UK. For Scotland, their report says:
“A uniform ‘national’ movement of votes is unlikely because the SNP must jump from third to first place over different challengers in different parts of Scotland. Because the median Labour seat is held with a margin of 31.6 per cent over the SNP, any recovery by Labour would reduce the depth to which Labour plunged.”
I’m discounting the Voldemort option – Tory majority or Tory/UKIP coalition – because this is not a probable option. The Tories can’t win a majority, and UKIP can’t win enough seats to help them out.
On Thursday 7th May 2015, there will be a general election in the UK.
And then, short of hugely unlikely circumstances, there will not be another general election til 7th May 2020. (Or, with the approval of the House of Commons, any time up to two months later.)
There can only be a general election earlier than 7th May 2020 if either a majority vote in the Commons agrees “That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty’s Government” and a saving majority is not found within fourteen days: or if at least 434 MPs vote to call an early parliamentary general election.
Neither is a likely option. If a party can command the loyalty of 434 MPs they have a 109+ majority in the Commons and are very unlikely to want an early general election.
The Tories have produced a buzzfeed-style page for the indyref.
They take their assertion that Scots are better off by £1200 per year each in the UK than we would be if independent (their figures don’t make sense, but frankly the SNP’s arguments that we’d be better off by x amount per year each don’t make sense either) and they’ve done a series of images of the things that £1200 could buy.
Both sides have tried this argument, and both sides made a hash of it, because it is a frankly silly argument. The wealth of the UK is not a cake to be sliced up and everyone given a bit. Even if Scotland were to become actually independent in March 2016, or enter a devomax arrangement set up between the Tories and the SNP as planned in the White Paper, or remains part of the UK as at present, Scotland will still have a very few very rich people, a proportion of wealthy people, and a lot of people who are horrifyingly poor.
In less than four months, we’ll go to the polls to vote Yes or No to the question:
“Should Scotland be an independent country?”
And today, the campaign period for the referendum officially begins.
But as I pointed out a few weeks ago (and Simon Jenkins pointed out yesterday) the SNP are not offering independence: they want major decisions for Scotland’s governance to be made at Westminster/in London. (It’s all in the White Paper: haven’t you read it?)
Looking ahead to 2015, the polls say (and the bookies agree) the next general election is likely to be a Labour victory.
The results in so far from the local English council elections support that (full results won’t be out til later today): despite a low turnout (estimated at 36%) Labour has maintained or gained control in 27 local councils (up 2 – there were 161 local authority elections yesterday) and won 617 council seats (up by 101). Including – as I found out via Twitter – David Cameron’s favourite Tory council Hammersmith & Fulham.
The Conservatives have lost control in 8 councils (they’ve kept control in 27) and are down 99 council seats. The Liberal Democrats have lost control in one council (kept control in two) and are down 93 council seats. None of this looks good for their general election prospects.
The Green Party have four seats so far, up by one.
None of this, however, is the headlining news.
When I published Leaning Towards No, I expected reaction from Yes voters who’d been hoping I would come down on their side of the fence.
I wasn’t expecting the reaction to be so supportive of the SNP. From the reactions, [hardly anyone]* who plans to vote Yes intends to challenge the SNP’s plans to install devomax “currency union” in place of our present devolved system, and while some actively support the plan, many simply don’t see changing the SNP’s policy as possible.
*Not quite “no one”, as I initially wrote.
It therefore seems likely that – much to my annoyance and disappointment – I really don’t have any choice but to vote No. I don’t support devomax. I never did. I won’t vote Yes to have devomax replace status-quo devolution, and that’s what the Scottish Government’s White Paper says is going to happen.
Let me go through the various objections I’ve received to this, beginning with the silliest. (None of these are direct quotes from anyone, so if you recognise yourself in them, it’s purely coincidental.)
George Osborne says the Treasury won’t permit Scotland to use the UK pound, supposing Scotland votes for independence. In May 2015 – regardless of how Scotland votes in September – Osborne’s reign as least-qualified British Chancellor since the one who forgot his budget speech in 1869 comes to an end, so his pronouncements are necessarily limited to campaigning for a Yes vote.
(What? There was another reason for his coming up to Scotland? Seriously, does anyone think a very posh, very English Tory Minister telling Scots what they can and cannot do is likely to be anything but a drawback for the Better Together campaign?)
Quite possibly the worst result for 18th September would be for fewer than 50% of the electorate to vote, but for Yes to win by a narrow margin. The more Conservative Ministers moved to join the debate the better in that regard.