Saturday, 20 March 2010

Is Smithson calling it right on a Hung Parliament ?

Mike Smithson, the host of, is always good company and always worth listening to. He reads the political runes far more astutely than most so, with talk of Hung Parliaments in the air, I was intrigued by this comment posted by him this evening:

As to whether I personally want a hung parliament - like most serious Lib Dems who have thought about it the answer is no. The best outcome is a very small Tory majority in a parliament with more Lib Dem MPs 

History of course tells us that Hung Parliaments are a recipe for disaster for Liberals – 1923 and 1974 serve as salutary reminders that it’s the larger parties that call the tune and the Liberals are the fall guys.

The problem of course is that a Hung Parliament is a statistical accident rather than a desired outcome. IF it happens, the party has to be prepared.

The other aspect of the Smithson hypothesis is that it implies the heaviest possible defeat for Labour. For the Conservatives to gain a majority and for the Liberal Democrats to advance to say 70 seats would mean bringing Labour down to around 200-220 MPs. Now, Mike has been persistently bearish about Labour prospects and has argued, with polling evidence, that the worst poll for Labour at any time is the best reflection of the party’s true position but that theory hasn’t been tested in an election where Labour is on the wrong side so we’ll see.

Should such a result occur, it’s not hard to see an emboldened Nick Clegg becoming the main voice of Opposition to the Cameron Government while Labour goes through a period of renewal and reflection.

I think Mike has probably got this right – the scenarios around a Hung Parliament and a Labour win don’t end well for the Liberal Democrats while a Conservative landslide would likely result in a diminished Lib Dem presence which would give Team Cameron a decade in power before the return of Labour.

Breaking the duopoly won’t be easy but a Liberal Democrat advance against the backdrop of a small Tory win would be an important step which would be built on in the years following.

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