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Who will hang on to power?

PUBLISHED: 10:08 18 March 2010 | UPDATED: 10:08 12 August 2010

OUR exclusive poll conducted at the launch of these weekly political pages showed voters are not ready to hand the reins over to any one party.

OUR exclusive poll conducted at the launch of these weekly political pages showed voters are not ready to hand the reins over to any one party.

In a country rocked by the expenses scandal, a stuttering economy and widespread job losses, this is set to be the most interesting election in decades.

But the lack of an overall majority would place the party with the largest number of seats in a difficult position, with any bills or laws it wanted to pass at risk of being blocked by the combined efforts of opposition groupings.

With the latest surveys suggesting the Conservatives' lead of 25 points has been dramatically cut to couple of points, the chances of either Labour or David Cameron's Tories achieving a controlling majority seem slim.

Dr Ben Seyd, a lecturer in politics at Kent University, explained what this could mean for Britain.

He said: "Of course, it depends on which party is largest and how large they are but whatever the situation it will see a certain number of deals being cut, particularly with the Lib Dems.

"There are no rules here, unlike in other countries, so it is difficult to predict. It is perfectly possible, if there is no clear result, for Gordon Brown to stay in office and seek to form a minority government."

The last time Britain experienced a hung Parliament was in 1974 when Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath chose to cling on to power. He was forced to resign after failing to receive support from the Liberals (who would later become the Lib Dems).

"Heath was perfectly right to try and do what he did but he did it pretty quickly, a matter of days in fact, and it emerged that the Liberals wouldn't support him. At least in this situation it was done quickly."

Should a similar situation arise, it is likely that, once again, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems will have a big say in which party will take power through forming a coalition government.

This could see Lib Dem MPs invited into the cabinet and backbenchers asked to vote as a group on the side of one of the two parties to give them the majority needed.

"I am fairly certain that government will not grind to a halt should this happen," said Dr Seyd. "Clearly, there will be some uncertainly, and on some things like the Budget the Conservatives or Labour would need to know they had enough support before submitting it, but on other issues such as health care and immigration, it is probably just going to see each group having a little give to make it work."

An alternative to this is the possibility of a second General Election being called to try to secure a more conclusive result.

There are 646 seats in the House of Commons so a party must secure at least 323 seats for a majority.

In 2005, Tony Blair was able to hold on to power, with Labour winning 356 seats (55.1 per cent), Conservatives taking 198 (30.7 per cent) and the Lib Dems winning 62 (9.6 per cent).

This was a loss of 47 seats by Labour, with Tories gaining 33 and the Lib Dems 11.

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