The election result that everyone expects – and no one wants

The more voters reckon a hung parliament is coming, the more likely it becomes – even if they’d rather have a majority government

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

To form a coalition, David Cameron had to give up the Prime Ministerial prerogative to determine when the election was called. But it is hard to imagine that, given the choice, he would have gone to the Palace any earlier than Monday. The Tories have merely drawn level with Labour in recent weeks and there hasn’t been a poll yet which points to him winning a majority.

This will be the most polled campaign in British history. On the day it started, depending on your choice of pollster, the Tories were four points ahead of Labour, four points behind or dead level. But one clear theme is emerging from this cacophony of data: a hung parliament is the most likely election result.

The polls suggested a hung parliament for most of the 2010 campaign. But they were not taken seriously. Many of us assumed that undecided voters would break late, and decisively, one way or the other. They didn’t.

This time round, the media is positively obsessed by hung parliament scenarios. Every party leader will be asked repeatedly who they would do a deal with, what their ‘red lines’ will be in any negotiations and whether they would prefer a full coalition to a vote-by-vote deal.

There is an element of fighting the last war in all of this. One Tory cabinet minister jokes that even if they do win a majority, the first question he’ll get on election night will still be about coalition. But the emphasis being put on a hung parliament could actually change how people vote.

Among voters who expect another hung parliament, support for Labour and the Tories is markedly lower. The British Election Study reveals that Labour and the Tories poll at 39 and 38 per cent respectively with those who think that one party will win a majority. But among those who reckon that no party will win outright, these votes shares fall to 29 and 28 per cent. The beneficiaries of their decline are the other parties. Support for Ukip goes from 11 to 15 per cent, the Liberal Democrats from 6 to 10 per cent, the Greens from 4 to 7 per cent and, most dramatically, the Scottish Nationalists from 2 to 7 per cent.

Those figures suggest that if voters think no one will win a majority, there’ll be more support for the minor parties. This matters because when voters start paying attention to this election campaign, they’ll realise that a hung parliament is by far the most likely result. The respected election forecaster Stephen Fisher of Oxford University puts the chances of a Labour majority at just 1 per cent and that of a Tory majority at 16 percent.

This scenario goes against the now conventional wisdom that a close election will see the other parties squeezed as Labour and the Tories persuade voters that the election is really a two-way choice.

Another reason to think that the Tories and Labour will find it hard to overwhelm the other parties is the broadcasting rules. Ofcom have ruled that Ukip and the Liberal Democrats must be treated as ‘major parties’ alongside the Tories and Labour. Ukip believe that this standing, and the additional coverage it will bring, will greatly enhance their position. Senior Tories fear that they are right; one normally level-headed member of Cameron’s inner circle furiously describes the decision to grant Ukip major-party status as ‘ridiculous’. The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, calculate that they will as usual get a boost in the polls during the short campaign.

The Tories aim to turn all this talk of hung parliaments to their own advantage. They know that voters don’t like coalitions; the proportion preferring a coalition has dropped from 45 per cent to 29 per cent over the last five years. Almost two thirds of us want a single party government after the next election, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey. So the Tories are busy trying to say that a vote for anyone but them will lead to a mucky, uncertain result. They also think that the prospect of the Labour party having to rely on the support of the SNP in a hung parliament will send English voters into their protective embrace.

This Tory line of attack infuriates Labour. They protest that Ed Miliband has already ruled out a coalition with the SNP and that the nationalists have no bargaining power as they are already committed to preventing Cameron from forming another government. But as Alex Salmond told The Spectator last week, the SNP would look to extract concessions from Labour on a vote-by-vote basis. At the SNP conference last weekend, Nicola Sturgeon was explicit that SNP MPs would ‘force Labour’s hand and keep them honest’. She also declared, ‘We will use our influence in the House of Commons to force them to abandon the needless pain of Tory cuts.’

The SNP will keep beating this drum: it is a crucial part of their appeal in Scotland. South of the border, however, or once it has been through the Tory spin machine, it has a distinctly more menacing tone: a threat to force Labour to increase spending and dish out various goodies to Scotland. The Tories believe that English voters, riled by the demands of the nationalists and the fact that more money is spent on public services (per capita) in Scotland than England, will take fright at this prospect and turn to them to keep Salmond and his ilk out.

What makes this election so exciting is that no one can predict the result with any confidence. One of the things compounding the uncertainty is that we can’t be sure how voters react to uncertainty. Will they turn to the main parties in the hope of a decisive result or will they be more inclined to vote for a minor party in the belief that they’ll have influence in a hung parliament? The Tories are praying it’s the former.

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Show comments

    The Lib-Dems, with 20-25 seats, will be left out in the wilderness after GE2015.
    Danny Alexander, and his yellow lunch box, will never be seen again.

    The SNP, with 40+ seats, will put Labour in the position where either they accept the support of SNP to form a government , or step back and allow David Cameron to walk back into Downing St.

    Either way it’s a Labour disaster, and a SNP triumph.

    • TruthBeatsLies

      No “Labour disaster” I’ll be bound…!!! With the SNP’s backing, Labour will soon rule the roost across these islands, with the growing affection of an ever more impressive – anti-Capitalist! – majority…!!

      • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

        Agreed. We will renationalise the railways and then set about the utility companies. After the election Labour can ditch Miliband and hold another election in two years time to reduce the SNP voice.

        • tjamesjones

          & when do you bring in the red guards?

        • Tom M

          Touching. You obviously cannot recall the railways before privatisation then and if you can’t then you are even more unlikley to be aware of what was expected and what subsequently happened when they were nationalised originally.

          • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

            No. I used to travel daily by train until privatisation. Then it became slower, much more intermittent,more crowded, more expensive and with higher subsidies.

          • Gerschwin

            Surely that’s you you’re talking about there.

          • Tom M

            Your comparison isn’t valid. To make that statement you would have to compare what it would have been like without privatisation.
            Having had a look some time ago at the hisotry of railways in the UK I had to come to the conclusion that railways were in serious decline before WW2. Except that the politicians and unons didn’t see that. Ideology reigned. So they were nationalised.
            Everybody was happy. The Big Four owners walked off with lots of money for a diminishing asset, Unions saw huge pay rises coming along (logical because the profits would be shared out), the engineers had a field day with four train sets and unlimited government finance and people who had nothing to do with running a railway were put in charge.
            The happy ever after didn’t happen though did it? And it took about 50 years for it to sink in.
            Whatever the war cries were in 1946 they are the same today and the results will be despairingly similar.

          • Landscape

            The East Coast mainline was brought back by the Gov because the private company messed it up. It was running high in the comments on satisfaction and was making a profit. Then the gov decide to sell it again for another short term profit. Just because nationlised industry was poor in the past does not mean it would be poor now. Most of the stuff the Cons have sold off, didn’t need to be sold, just managed properly, but the Cons can’t be bothered with the responsibility, they’d rather sell off and wash their hands of the whole thing.

          • Tom M

            As to why “stuff” is being sold off look no further than the EU. It is they who scutinise a country’s budget and insist upon reducing a country’s borrowing requirement. Just look at the EU’s demands upon Greece at the moment to sell off state owned enterprises before they will advance any more money. I’m not a supporter of the EU but surely it must be clear to all that we can’t afford to own and run these huge organisations anymore.
            You are correct that these organisations need to be run properly (BTW it would please me well if they were all publically owned). But this is something we never were able to do. Not one of the old nationalised industries was run for the good of the industry always for the politics of the day. To say that it would be different in the future is some gamble indeed when few if any government figures have any business experience at all.

            In respect of privatisation I would agree that it is not a solution in it’s own right. You have to find competent private companies too but that, in this respect, is also the fault of politicians. They invariably get stiched up in any deal. Look at PFI. It’s not a company’s fault if they got a good deal, blame the clowns who handed it to them. You can find sharp traders in places other than in flea markets.

        • Damon

          “We will renationalise the railways and then set about the utility companies.”
          Bring back British Rail, for example? Oh goodie. I remember it well. It was just fab.

    • Yvon & Barry Stuart-Hargreaves

      The Liberals are on track for only 15 seats, Labour close to 300. Labour always have the support of Plaid , the Greens and SDLP, so will rely on the SNP abstaining rather than voting with the Tories. Where there is a major issue Labour can dangle the prospect of moving Trident from Faslane to Falmouth

  • Always_Worth_Saying

    After half a day in London SNP MPs and ministers would be indistinguishable from their English counterparts. The English establishment will absorb the outsiders – as it always does. An SNP coalition will have the same sneering contempt for Scotland as the present one does.

    • Tom Cochrane

      We will soon find out if that’s true

    • Auldreekie

      Ludicrous. A complete oversight of the record of SNP MPs at Westminster, a misconception of the role which they will play after May 7th, and an enormous underestimation of the unswerving resolve to restore Scotland’s independence.

      No SNP MP has ever been absorbed by the English establishment. None has given up the cause of Scottish independence. There will be no coalition, because nobody in the SNP is interested in playing a part in the government of the UK, and we don’t want close association with those who do.

  • Richard Gadsden

    Look at the same statistic the other way around: people who support SNP/UKIP/Lib Dem are more likely to think there will be a hung parliament than people who support Lab/Con. Well, of course they are – most people overestimate the likely result for the party they support!

    Correlation is not causation – the causation can run the other way around (as, I expect, in this case) or can run from some unmentioned third item to both others (for instance, people who are paying more attention to politics are more likely to support a non-traditional party and are also more likely to know there will be a hung parliament).

    • tjamesjones

      good points.

    • Peter Turner

      Yes, you’re right; I assumed on reading the article that the polls had specifically asked the question about hung parliaments, but on looking at the wording I realise that the author has just separated out the groups. Pointless.

  • Bertie

    “We will use our influence in the House of Commons to force them to abandon the needless pain of Tory cuts.’”

    What Tory cuts? We’ve added another £700bn to the National Debt over the lifetime of this parliament – ie we’ve borrowed over and above £100bn, each year, that which we have earned. How’s that cutting?

    Whoever wins the election will find that Serious Cuts are needed. So why, for example, ring fence Foreign Aid – we cant afford it.

    Why ring fence the NHS – in its current form, due to health tourism, waste, an ageing population, and a RISING population (Net Migration of 200-250,000 extra people before births/deaths taken into account) we simply cant afford it. It’s a post code lottery as to whether you get treated well or get killed.(And before someone says the NHS kills is exaggerating – Liverpool pathway anyone)

    This country needs to undergo radical change or else we are heading tio the poor house as a nation.

    • Mary Ann

      Just remember there are almost as many Brits. living in mainland Europe as there are Mainland Europeans living in Britain, so we can’t blame the EU whatever the right tells you.

      • Landscape

        Rubbish. gov own estimates are 1.8m brits living in Europe to 2.4m people from the EU living here. That’s half a million more. Then how many millions from out side the EU.
        Anyway, the argument is spurious. Even if we left the EU, people can still come and work here. The only difference is it will be similar to how it was before the open door policy. They will have to apply for work visas. You think we didn’t have any migrant workers before we joined the EU?
        Leaving the EU will give us control and be able to ensure that we’re not letting scroungers, yes there are some of them from everywhere, it’s not just some brits, or crooks.
        What’s so wrong with that?

      • Bertie

        Presumably all those Brits living is mainland Europe are wealthy in their own right, living off pensions – unlike those that migrate here on lower incomes(with their income tops, child beenfits etc etc)

        Hardly comparable especially when one carries out a financial asessment of the relative contibutions/costs.



      • Erique Lamont

        How is he right?

        Whites in the UK are not making enough babies -too many Jaffas- as the population ages we need immigrants to work in our institutions and pay into our pensions and services.

        The whole situation in the UK, as in other countries populated by the idle rich, could be remedied if the to top 10% were paying their full contribution to supporting the country they live in, and the stability that it has.

        The top 2% in the world have more wealth than than the poorest 6 billion on the planet, similar in the UK, the top 10% have more wealth then approximately the other 90% combined. What is that wealth doing? It sits in a bank and makes more money, it is doing nothing useful.

        The UK is a haven for the rich, supported by the poor, the UK is THE destination for rich Russian Oligarchs, Putin is on about bringing in measures to stop his Oligarchs from leaving Russia and taking their money with them -as most of them have said openly they are on the move.

        The rich bankers got this country -and the whole world- into this mess, not a few thousand immigrants behaving just like any other human, and trying to do the best for themselves and their families…

    • Erique Lamont

      I think “cuts” refer to the poor that are having an ideological war wages on them by the Toffs…

      Remember “We’re all in this together” ?

      The rich have got richer, CaMORON has avoided doing what he said he would do and stop their tax-avoidance scams, he is busily selling off government and national entities to his private sector friends…

      We need immigration in the UK, the population is getting to old because the majority White people are becoming infertile or choosing not to have kids. We have almost as many Brits working or retired abroad -we all know some- that virtually balance out the the Net Migration.

      If anything is harming the NHS it is not the immigrants coming here and paying their taxes etc, it is the opportunistic British flocking back to the UK for NHS treatment when they find out their health condition will cost them a fortune in Europe.

      The fact is, the majority of foreigners coming to the UK do work and are not on benefits or health tourists; the NHS and our care for the elderly would not be able to function without the thousands’ of foreigners doing the jobs the British are too lazy to do…don’t give me the foreigners undercutting pay, every nursing home or hospital I’ve ever encountered pay at least the NMW, the Brits don’t work there because: “I won’t get out of bed for NMW to wipe old peoples bottoms…”

      Many critics of immigration, I have found, actually do not have a job and do not want a job, they want to spend all day long playing World of Warcraft being paid to do so by British AND foreign workers…they do not like that truth when you present it to them.

      • Bertie

        Poor, Middle Class, Savers – they’ve all paid the price for the largesse of the feckles. The response, QE, was always going to make the rich,richer and its underpinned the asst price inflation, particularly in property(London – where prices are ridiculous) and bonds/share markets.

        Viz Immigration – dont dispute we need Immigration – but what we need is controlled immigration, based on skills. We dont need everyone with low skills, an inability to speak English(yes there are quite a few) coming to our shores.

        Whites are not infertile – they just cant afford to pop out 3-9 kids unless they’re welfare recipients making a living out of it., Everyone else simply cant afford to have more than 1-2. yet many from overseas have 4-6+

        Brits living aborad does not virtually balance out Net Migration. Net migration is 250-275,000 per year. Thats 200,000 Brits out, 450-475,000 non Brits in – explaining the demographica and cultutral changes taking place in parts of the country. Most of those Brits living abroad are also, key, financially independent,owning their own homes, most likely living off their pensions – they are not the drain, financially,that many of these low skilled migrants are who often need income support, and make use of child tax credits/child benefit, and who knows what else – housing benefit?)

        I think you’ll find that the problem with tthe NHS,and what is harming it are there are simoply TOO MANY people drawing on it. That has arisen because:

        1) The population of UK has surged from 50-55m to 65m ina short space of time. THE NHS is able tocater for 50-55m, no more.

        2) Health tourism. Added to the above surge in domestic population, there is also the issue of health tourism where people, for example, pregnant women travelling from West Africa, take advantage of a service they simply are not eligible for and dont pay for.

        Opportunistic Brits???Many of these people have paid into the POT for 30-40 years before retiring abroad – theyre entitled to use the NHS, more so than those HIV people Farage mentioned who have paid bugger all into the kitty ever,but expect to get drugs costing £20,000 per year for nothing. For those Brits that go to work overseas,many pay their Class 3 contributions- this entitles them as well.

        Those Brits of workign age, that emigrate to work overseas should, after a reasonable amount of time has pased, be subsequently expected to pay towards their treatment. Free treatments for foreigners though should go first. No eligible Health card, no medical insurance, no credit card = no treatment.

        Simly not fair on those that have paid into the pot to go without so that someone who has never paid anything gets treated.

        “The fact is, the majority of foreigners coming to the UK do work and are not on benefits or health tourists;”

        I think you’ll find that much of the Immigration is low skilled – so they’ll be on income support/top up, then there’s the housing, then the Child tax credits/child benefits. So your facts are incorrect – supposition yes, not fact.

        And to evidence my claim you then go on to say

        “without the thousands’ of foreigners doing the jobs the British are too lazy to do..”

        Which evidences that such jobs are clearly going to be relatively low paid (and thus qualifying for Income top up and a variety of other wlefare additions) If the salaries were not low, then the indigenous Brits wouldnt be too lazy to do them.

        Personally I take away beenfits of anyone unemployed who either wasnt seekign work, or was unwilling to do work provided. It’s simply not right that families working their arses off, who struggle, are receiving less income than someone sitting on their arse, or opening their legs to pop out kids with a variety of men.

        “every nursing home or hospital I’ve ever encountered pay at least the NMW,”

        You do realise that the national minimum wage (£6.50/hr?) would result in someone earning , before tax and nI, circa £16000.They’d most certainly qualify for income top up surely?

        “.they do not like that truth when you present it to them.”

        Still waiting for you to present the truth….:)

        It’s a mixed bag, agree with some of your points…not sure about the other parts however.

    • Autolocus

      A bit like the Thatcher Cuts. What were in fact modifications in the rate of increased expenditure were described continuously by the likes of the Biased Broadcasting Corporation as “cuts”. This was required by their true bosses (The Grauniad) and if said enough times it came to be accepted as the truth.
      in such ways do former democratic societies rot from the head down.

  • James

    The General Election is a con – only the EU are winners. Cameron will prop up Clegg to assure the european hell project is completed and the hedge fund managers who fund our main 3 political parties to be Pro-EU can make millions more from misery. This is the problem with democracy – it enables people to buy it.

    • Mary Ann

      The EU is good for Britain.

      • James

        Don’t be so moronic. Educate yourself before posting nonsense – you have no argument to say the EU is good for Britain – how?

        • JoeCro

          The EU has been the biggest guardian of peace in Europe since 1945.

          • James

            Don’t be an idiot. UK has done more for peace than all EU member states put together since 1945. EU wants to continue the cold war by taking former Soviet territories risking WW3 with Russia.

          • Chamber Pot

            The EU and NATO have for some years been converging and share a common interest as part of the ‘ International Community ‘ (shorthand for America and its satellites) in curbing Russian power (and containing China) and expanding its political role into formerly Russian/Soviet spheres of influence. As part of this international community we also find ourselves in the unsavoury company of Saudi Arabia and Israel inadvertently ranged against Assad’s secular regime and in league with ISIS and Al Qaeda ? The UK has been sucked into the Neocon regime change agenda set out by Washington across the Middle East with its bloody, pointless, wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and now Ukraine with the jackpot being Putin’s ouster. I don’t feel at peace in the UK ? We are shackled to a corrupt EU and things get worse as we lose more and more of our sovereignty and the EU, under pressure, seeks foreign adventures like all totalitarian states to distract and scare the population.

          • Edward Walker

            What an astoundingly silly comment. The European Union didn’t exist until 1993, and the earlier community had nothing to do with keeping the peace. It was NATO that kept the peace in Europe, along with the existence of nuclear weapons

          • Chamber Pot

            In my reply to JoeCro above I say; ” What has kept the peace is NATO not the bloody EU so wake up ” ?

          • CommonSense Matters

            You should google timeline for European Union and see the progression and the reasons. We had union long before Maastricht.

          • Chamber Pot

            Sure it has. What has kept the peace is NATO not the bloody EU so wake up.

  • goodsoldier

    All the parties besides UKIP care only about power for the sake of power, not about Great Britain. They think their insect authority will hold more weight and the damage prove less noticeable mired in the EU. Downright disgraceful!

    • Mary Ann

      And you think that ukip is any different, well they are different, they are the only party with a leader who blames everything on migrants and then claims that his party isn’t racist. It was interesting and refreshing to see a couple of ukip parliamentary candidates resign because they had realised that the party was racist.

      • goodsoldier

        They don’t blame anything on immigrants, only the irresponsible and dishonest politicians who exploit mass immigration to get people to work for nothing and make it more difficult for the British already here to hold a job in their own country. The politicians send their children to expensive schools and never experience the crowded classrooms, the over-stuffed NHS that is supposed to provide healthcare to the British, not the world. Nobody agreed to open borders—we were hoodwinked by politicians. Labour wanted immigrants to vote for benefits, therefore vote Labour. Lib/lab/con don’t ‘give a shit about people in Britain and only pretend to be compassionate about foreigners using taxpayer’s money. I could go on and on. UKIP isn’t racist, and I am not racist. I suspect all you can think of is race–makes you feel good about yourself. Keep polishing your plastic halo. you unsophisticated berk.

  • Des Demona

    I’m all for a hung parliament. I suggest using the lamp posts along the Embankment




    labour are recruiting just hippis in the streets hippi like tony blair and u think labour is going to win I don’t think so this is the second coiming o f jesus said so

















  • Vijay Thomas

    People support those they think will produce a winner, in the final analysis, even if they actually supprot another scenario, than eventual the one they choose on election DAY is mainly from the two main contenders. They pick and generally (it turns out) to be from the two major parties Cons or Labs and the Tory’s have just too MADE many bloopers and ignored the ordinary voters for the whole FIVE yaers in power.
    Weakend the NHS into crisis mode and are now trying to play catch-up, if they lose it will be upto two reasons
    1- ignoring the weakest and poor the children and the youth in favour of their base the Millionaires, the Multinationals, the Corporations who are fleecing the TAX base of this Country. All of this the public now firmly believe is the case?
    2 – The Cost of living crisis has not filtered down to those who are feeling the relenless Austerity programme these heartless Tory Polititions have burdened one section of the Society with, all of us are NOW aware of this too and they WILL suffer the consequences of this in a big WAY?
    I give Labour a good chance of winning an outright MAJORITY for sure, watch this space?
    Think, have this Coalition helped you, are ‘we all in it together.?
    Have you noticed they have stopped saying that anymore, WONDER WHY?



  • John Andrews

    If the SNP could be persuaded that a federal arrangement is the best thing for Scotland, as it is for England, then the defection of Scots voters from Labour would be 100% good for the British Isles. I’d like to see commentators and politicians discussing the federal option.

  • Landscape

    Everyone expects but no one wants? Got to disagree with that. Many people want a multi party coalition hoping that things will then be run more for the people and less for the elite and big business.

  • Gilbert White

    Who is that guy on the right?

  • lakelander

    Primarily people tend to look primarily for security. After five weeks of uncertainty about the consequences of SNP/Labour control I believe that enough voters will want to forestall this by voting Conservative that the party will win a small majority. The jitters are a powerful motivator.

  • aurila

    why not just hand over power to the EU,

    the UK authorities have given most powers away already,
    and then when we are ruled solely by Brussels,

    we would not need any UK politicians,
    and we would not have to pay for them

  • CommonSense Matters

    Dream on. Nobody want this and nobody expects this because no-one will effect this. Cameron has made sure of that. Clegg just accepted 50k to save his seat. Have you recently seen Cinderella – were you inspired?