Sunday, March 27, 2011

Could the party that 'wins' the Holyrood election be frozen out of office?

I have a new article up at Socyberty analysing recent Holyrood opinion poll trends, and speculating on the possibility that the party that wins most seats may not necessarily claim the keys to Bute House. As you'll probably deduce from the references to 'betting markets', this was the potential guest post for Political Betting that I mentioned earlier this morning. I later received an email from Mike Smithson which, although a bit ambiguous, seemed to indicate that he'd changed his mind about using it because so much is happening both domestically and abroad at the moment.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs -

"Recent polls in Scotland showing the SNP narrowing the gap have reignited interest in the betting markets for the forthcoming Holyrood election. Labour are still clear favourites, but it’s worth remembering – and too easily overlooked as a result of our relative unfamiliarity with proportional representation – that Alex Salmond’s party does not necessarily need to entirely overhaul Labour in the popular vote to remain in office. In countries across Europe that use PR, it’s quite routine for parties that finish in second place to form coalitions or looser arrangements that freeze out the largest party. In Ireland, for instance, Fine Gael have just ‘won’ an election for the very first time – and yet they’ve led governments on several previous occasions.

This does of course cut both ways – the SNP could finish first in terms of seats, but still see a Labour-led coalition take office. Indeed, the former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell continued to harbour hopes of forming a coalition with the Liberal Democrats for several days after being pipped by the SNP in the 2007 election. So is there any particular reason to suppose that the SNP are the party with the best chance of forming a government from second place this time round?"

Continue reading the article here. Note that it's spread over two pages (in case it appears to come to an abrupt halt).


  1. Ezio Auditore da Firenze - First on the list for Florence RegionMarch 27, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Yes, so much is happening in the world right now. An actual nation wide election is occuring in a few weeks time, but what significance does that have when faced with the mighty importance of an increase in Cameron's approval rating that is within the margin of error? What relevance does the Scottish Parliamentary election have when we are asked to consider four general problems that face Labour in opposition at Westminster (problems that we can assume they have been facing for almost a year).

    Yes, things are just far too busy right now to hear anything about an actual election campaign. Especially while there are opportunities to sneeringly make reference to "Edward Miliband".

  2. You might very well think that, Ezio, but I couldn't possibly comment...

  3. A good article, James, and food for thought.

  4. I believe its Labour's turn to provide a PO! All to play for.

  5. I think that there is some "disquiet" (if I may borrow the word from Michael Gove) in Labour ranks about the possibility of a coalition with the Liberals, possibly for the reason that you suggest, or possibly because of a fear that information shared by Liberals in the two countries may find its way into the hands of the Tories in England and Labour in Scotland. Iain gray has not ruled it out, but some colleagues are apparently less enthusiastic

    As Cynical mentions, the Liberals, Tories and SNP have all provided a PO. I don't know what the rules are, or indeed if there are rules at all, but if it rotates, then I guess Labour loses a seat automatically.

    If the event that provision of a PO would make the difference between their being able, alone or in coalition, to form a government, I wonder if any rules would have to be changed.

    All to play for though, and I really didn't think I would be saying that at this stage.

    If I may just (off topic) return briefly to the good Mr Gove, I was left open-mouthed at teh use of the word disquiet when referring to people's emotion when are losing their jobs, having to move out of their homes, sell their cars, take massive pay cuts, or double their work to cover a colleague who has been paid off, then go run the library at night. Unless of course I'm unaware of another meaning of the word "disquiet".

    What an out of touch fool of a man.

  6. Poll Alert: SNP draws even on the regional vote with a clear swing (beyond MoE) from the last TNS-BMRB

  7. James, what do you make of this?

  8. Well, it's written from an English perspective, so he's probably underestimating the antipathy between the two parties. I suppose the arithmetic might throw up a situation where a Labour/SNP government is the only one that would have a chance of seeing out a full term, but even then it would be unlikely to happen.