Monday, May 10, 2010

What exactly did they say?

The results in the UK election are in and as the wise man once said, the people have spoken but we're going to have to figure out what they said. With 650 seats, the magic figure is 325. However, when you count the Sinn Féin abstentions and the speaker the total shrinks to 644, giving a majority figure of 322.

The Conservatives on 306 are very much in the driving seat. The obvious route to power is to sign a deal with the Liberal Democrats and be done with it. However, the thorny issues of electoral reform and the complete opposite views on Europe will make this a difficult deal to broker. There is also the question as to whether the two parties will join in formal coalition or will the LibDems agree to support a Conservative minority government on the main issues but still feel free to oppose them on certain other topics.

Labour on 258 along with the Liberal Democrats on 57 are still only on 315 and so would have to pull in at least another 7 supporters from the minor parties. Support from SDLP and Alliance in the North will give them 4 meaning that either the SNP or PC, or more likely both to keep things stable, would be required. Were this grouping to agree to push through electoral reform and agree to call another election within the year under the new system I could see it lasting the required distance.

From an Irish perspective I don't see what the great rush is. If you are putting together a team to run a country, a hastily cobbled together agreement in not the way to do it. Cool, calm heads are required along with a reasonable period of debate and discussion both between the potential partners and within their own groupings is required. Consider how long it took the Greens and Fianna Fáil in 2007, FF and the PDs in 1989 or most spectacularly the FF and Labour negotiations in 1992. Gordon Brown can be left steering the ship for a few days more to make sure the right deal is put in place.

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