Election prediction

For the first time in over 30 years it looks like there will be no clear winner of a UK general election. The polls seem to be showing a late recovery in Labour support at the expense of the Lib Dems, though the Tories are still out in front, in terms of the popular vote at least. How this will translate into seats is unclear; though a consensus seems to be forming that the Tories will be the biggest single party. The Lib Dems may theoretically hold the balance of power, though if either of the big parties are only just short of a majority the minor parties might come into play. The Ulster Unionist Party has a formal alliance with the Tories, who could also probably count on the support of the Democratic Unionists. The Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists have ruled out entering into coalitions, but would most likely vote with Labour to keep the Tories out.

In these circumstances any prediction I make about what will happen after the votes are counted will almost certainly be wrong, but I’ll have a go anyway:

  • The Tories will be the biggest single party, in the popular vote and in seats, but will be short of a majority, even with Unionist support.
  • Labour will come second in share of the vote, but only just ahead of the Lib Dems, though with many more seats.
  • The Lib Dems will substantially increase their overall vote, but this will bring only a modest rise in their seats.
  • The Scottish and Welsh Nationalists will gain two or three seats, at the expense of Labour.
  • The far-right UKIP and BNP will poll well in certain areas, but won’t win any seats.
  • Parties to the left of Labour will see a modest rise in total vote, but the fragmented nature of the left will prevent any serious gains.

If the polls do work out this way then:

  • David Cameron will become Prime Minister at the head of a minority government.
  • The Lib Dems will not enter a formal coalition with the Tories, but will not bring the government down, as long as Cameron makes some sort of commitment to voting reform.
  • Gordon Brown will resign as Labour leader, resulting in a period of party infighting.

And in the medium term:

  • The Tories will embark on a round of public spending cuts deeper than people had imagined, leading to significant social unrest.
  • Labour will unite behind a new leader, at least temporarily.
  • The Lib Dems will find it harder to continue propping up an increasingly unpopular government.
  • There will be another election within 18 months.

Beyond that? I don’t know. I’m hoping the reaction against a Tory administration will give a boost to the left, but one can never be sure of these things, and there may be a swing to the right instead. The only certainty is that things will be uncertain.

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