Fading Brown, and Post-Election Arithmetic

As a child I learned that a mixture of red, orange, green and other colours gives a dirty brown mess. Now it is beginning to look as if a mixture of parties with these colours (but not blue) will lead to a messy Brown government, at least for a few months. Gordon Brown has announced that he will go by the autumn, after a successor has been elected. So it looks as if he will not so much resign as fade away, like an old soldier, and his successor as Prime Minister is more likely to be a Miliband than a Cameron.

But will this messy government last? I don’t see why not. The pro-Conservative press has been repeating the opposite so often that people (such as Phil Ruse in a comment at Clayboy) are starting to believe it, but it is not true: a parliamentary alliance between Labour and the Liberal Democrats will not be hopelessly unstable.

Let’s look at the figures. Here is the new composition of the House of Commons:

Conservative 306
Labour 258
Liberal Democrat 57
Democratic Unionist 8
Scottish National 6
Sinn Fein 5
Plaid Cymru 3
Social Democratic & Labour 3
Green 1
Alliance 1
The Speaker 1
To be decided (probable Conservative) 1
Total 650

Is there is a new pact between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, it will have 315 seats. Then include its Northern Ireland allies SDLP and Alliance which give it 319, or 320 with the likely support, at least tacitly, of the Green MP.

To defeat it requires an alliance of Conservatives, DUP and SNP for a total of 321, or 324 with Plaid Cymru, assuming Sinn Fein and the Speaker stay neutral. SNP at least will be terrified of supporting the Conservatives and precipitating a Cameron minority government or a new election. But without nationalist support the Tories have only 315 votes and so no chance of defeating the “progressive alliance”.

So it seems to me that, as long as their own MPs don’t break ranks, a coalition of Labour and Lib Dems is likely to be quite stable. It should certainly be stable enough to do what needs to be done to stabilise the economy, as presumably the Conservatives would not want to precipitate an election on such matters. It might not be able to get through Parliament some of its more radical ideas, but perhaps what we need now is stability rather than radical change.

As for the argument that this government would lack legitimacy, that is nonsense. Under the current electoral system as supported by the Conservatives (they are now offering a referendum on a kind of change but would campaign against it) the winner is the grouping which can command a majority for the Queen’s Speech. It looks like Cameron cannot. Brown may be able to, and that looks like making him the winner.

0 thoughts on “Fading Brown, and Post-Election Arithmetic

  1. Why do you think the party that came third by a very, very long way should have the casting vote on who should form the government?

  2. Gordon, the Lib Dems did not come in third ‘by a very, very long way’. The Conservatives received 36% of the vote, Labour received 29%, and the LDs 23%. That is third place, yes, but not ‘by a very, very long way’.

  3. In terms of seats it is a very long way behind remembering that, in the previous election, Labour had a majority of 65 seats over all other parties on 35% of the electorate. No good trying to make a case on the basis of a PR system which the UK have never used. We have to go by the system we have as long as we have it. The reality is Lib-Dems have 58 seats. Even if you allow 23% of the 65% who actually voted (or less than 15% of the total population) they have a disproportionate level of influence.

  4. Peter, or perhaps the other way round. Who in their right minds would want to negotiate with Peter Mandelson and Alistair Campbell?

  5. Well, it seems like Gordon Brown decided to go out with a bang rather than fade away. It seems to me that his own party didn’t really want a deal with the Lib Dems, so he had no choice. So it seems we get blue and orange together – the colours of the sunset, or of a new dawn maybe? We will see.

  6. Gordon (not Brown, I presume), I am basing my comments on what I have seen on the BBC news feed. Of course negotiating with Mandelson and Campbell would be no fun. but I don’t think that alone would have stopped Nick Clegg.

    One interesting additional point here is that our next Prime Minister will not now be the first not clearly converted Jew to hold the office – as would have been either of the Milibands.

  7. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » Not Brown, but blue and orange

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