Mother of All Parliaments promises unpredictable springtime

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By Adrian Lancashire
Mother of All Parliaments promises unpredictable springtime

Elections have been predictable in the UK for decades. It is how they worked, the Conservatives in power then Labour then the same again.

The United Kingdom’s elected representatives have long raised comment that the posturing so often aimed at embarrassing the other side might not fairly reflect their responsibilities; 2015, however, might see a less clear-cut outcome, and take the wind out of some of those sails.

This year makes political history, the first to gather in the same studio seven party leaders for a televised debate, not just the usual suspects.

It did not look like the traditional big ones could carry this election on their own.

The smaller ones upset the apple cart, and they will insist on a say in how the apples are stacked after they are all counted.

They will have that say, in spite of a more than 100-year-old electoral system that has never worked in favour of smaller political formations but rather the large.

The UK is divided into 650 parliamentary constituencies, each of which is represented by one Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons.

The candidate in each who wins the most votes gets the seat. This is called “first past the post”.

Either a party’s candidates are numerous enough to form a majority, and thereby it governs, or no party breaks the 51% ribbon and you get what is called a “hung parliament”. That has happened five times since 1910.

In this picture, the party with the most MPs can form a minority government and try to govern or teams up with others and a coalition governs.

That is what happened after the last general election, in 2010, and is expected this time.

Although the votes have scattered, even if a small party got 25% of the votes, the first past the post in each constituency system means it might only muster a handful of MPs.

There was an attempt to reform this in 2011, a referendum was held on whether to switch to an alternative system but it returned a resounding two thirds rejection of change.

This election leaves the floor open to show-stealing, and then horse-trading, the persuasion match, the rounds of ‘I’ll be your best friend if you will do ‘x’ for my party/constituency/national cause.’

No one can say who will end up in whose pocket.

There is quite a potential for embarrassment.

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