1Hung Parliaments usually spark two general elections being fought within one year.
There have been six Hung Parliaments since the start of the 20th century. Four of these instances have seen elections being called less than a year following the result, making the Hung Parliaments of 1929 and 2010 exceptional. In fact, the minority Labour Government which was produced in 1929 only survived two years before collapsing. In this context, we can see the importance of the Fixed-Term Parliament Act in 2010 to maintaining Government cohesion for the duration of the electoral cycle. The irony is, with an even less satisfactory result looming for all of the main parties this coming May, the repealing of this Act may be the only issue which brings unity to the Commons.
2Voting intention suggests at least three parties will be needed to form a governing coalition.
In order for any Government to form an overall majority, they need to control half of the seats in Parliament, plus one. This makes the threshold for victory 326 seats. Polls currently suggest that any one party achieving this in May this year to be highly unlikely. Not only that, but independent seat projector Election Forecast shows that, at the time of writing, the only combination of parties that could form a coalition to get over this threshold with just two partners are Labour and the Conservatives. This is inconceivable. Therefore, save an unforeseeable shock to the polls, we are looking at a minimum of a three-party coalition if an overall majority is to be achieved.
3An incumbent government has increased their share of the vote in only three of the eighteen general elections since WWII.
Most projections for the result this May now suggest that the Conservatives will end up being the first party, ahead of Labour by only a handful of seats. This is owing to a series of expectations based on previous elections, which typically see Conservative voters marginally more likely to turn out than Labour voters, as well as a modest boost often being recorded on polling day for whoever the incumbent may be at that time. This belies many Conservative hopes that the strength of their economic argument will result in a late surge during the official campaign. Tory spin doctors repeatedly say that they only need about twenty more seats to win an overall majority in May, but this hope must be contextualised by historical precedent: incumbents very rarely increase their share of the vote on the previous election.
4The Liberal Democrats will be saved by the very electoral system they tried to get rid of.
One of the great ironies of this election will be that the Liberal Democrats have sought electoral reform to a more proportional system, which will this year give them a huge relative advantage over their rivals. The Greens and UKIP have in many polls overtaken the Lib Dems in voting intention, but the current system will see the two parties win between just one and six seats, against a projection of between 20 to 30 seats for Nick Clegg’s party.
This is because the Lib Dems perform incredibly well in a handful of constituencies, whereas the UKIP and Green vote is spread and diluted across many. So, even though they are currently set to get half of the popular vote of UKIP, they will still have a significant number of MPs in the next Parliament. Thanks to the very electoral bias the Lib Dem’s have long protested against, they may well still be set to decide the makeup of any new coalition with just 7% of the popular vote.
5The death of the “uniform swing” is a threat to even the safest seats.
All indicators suggest that we can be fairly certain about two headline things this coming election: first, that the Conservatives will lose a handful of seats, and second, that Labour will gain a handful of seats, won mostly from the former. As only these two parties have any real hope of being the largest party in any coalition, predicting this swing, therefore, should tell us who will come first and by what margin. But in an election more compartmentalised to particular locates across the UK than ever before, things are not so simple. Labour loses to the SNP, for example, are currently set to completely offset any gains that they make from the Tories.
The Guardian currently projects Labour to lose around 35 seats to the Scottish Nationalists versus the 38 they’re set to gain from the Conservatives. As both of the main parties are set to gain fairly equally from Lib Dem losses, the final determiner of who may pip the other at the post will come from the extents to which the Greens and UKIP deflate the mainstream vote in traditionally safer seats. Even at the 2010 election, the Electoral Reform Society estimated 59% of the seats up for grabs were in fact totally safe – of having no chance of changing hands. That’s why this election is made all the more exciting; after May 2015 the lines could be radically redrawn to reflect the shrinking localities of where the mainstream can really consider themselves to be “safe”.