Hung parliament: Opportunity knocks for the nats
02 June 2022 06:49 AM

Poll update: Lib-Lab coalition government now possible

02 June 2022

For the first time since the 2019 General Election, the opinion polls are suggesting the numbers are now there for Labour to be able to form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

According to Politics.co.uk’s general election model – one that digests the last 3 weeks of national opinion polls and extrapolates them into a constituency by constituency result – the Labour party would win 294 seats, and the Liberal Democrats 27 seats.

These projections come with the standard caveats about the possibility of the odd unusual local result, and the need to see the final impact of the impending boundary review. Yet allowing for the fact that Sinn Fein MPs do not sit at Westminster, the projected combined total of 321 MPs would now be just enough for Labour to be able to govern in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

This development is significant because it means that Labour wouldn’t be reliant on support from the Scottish National Party in order to be able to form a government in London.

Although Labour currently maintains a lead of some 6.5% over the Conservatives in national opinion polls, this lead does not translate into an overall majority at Westminster. Under the current constituency voting system, Labour votes are more heavily weighted in existing Labour seats, notably those within England’s major cities. The Labour party is also significantly hampered because of its lack of representation in Scotland, where the party has just 1 MP.

Unless Labour can sustain a double digit opinion poll lead, the party’s only real chance of outright success in a general election, is to recover at least some of its lost ground in Scotland. For much of the post war period up until 2015, the Labour party would have expected to obtain over 40 Scottish MPs.

Should Labour be able to return to the 20 seat mark in Scotland, the party would only need a national opinion poll lead of around 7% to be able to form a majority government at Westminster.

Under the new Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, the party appears to be making tentative advances north of the border. Labour is now polling around 23% in Scotland, up 4% from the 19% it received in 2019. Yet to win even 20 seats in Scotland, Labour would need to increase its vote share to around the 28%-29% level. In this sense, the impact of Mr Sarwar to the wider direction of travel in UK politics as a whole, cannot be underestimated.

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