Don’t bet on a Tory landslide
Gordon Brown may have seen off a second coup but, given his humiliation in June’s elections and David Cameron’s handsome poll lead, a thumping Tory victory in 2010 seem all but inevitable. Not so fast, though. Cameron currently boasts a meagre 198 MPs. To win he needs 125 more. What are the odds?
Assuming a uniform swing, pollster Peter Kellner thinks a 6 per cent poll lead will only just see Cameron draw level with Labour, at about 280 seats each. For a majority of one over all parties, Cameron needs a lead of roughly 11 per cent; a swing almost as large as the one that handed Tony Blair a majority of 179 in 1997. A decent majority of around 40 seats needs a massive 13 per cent lead. And while this glum picture could be brightened if Lord Ashcroft’s millions win over marginal seats, or Lib Dem tactical voters ditch Labour for the Tories, it remains an extremely steep hill to climb. So even if Cameron wins 40 per cent, and Labour slump to 30, a hung parliament is on the cards. Cameron would become PM. Rather than cosying up with Clegg’s Lib Dems, however, he’s likely to soldier on in a minority and call a second election. Next year may well end up as a spin on the old story: you wait five years for an election, and then two come along at once.
The Prospect plan to save the world
Sweeping schemes for constitutional reform and global salvation abound. Not to be left out, Prospect has a plan that neatly solves two problems in one—and doesn’t even need primary legislation. The idea is this: cap the number of government members drawn from parliament at 50 (down from the current figure of 124)—and draw the remaining talent from outside. At a stroke, this would create more competition for government jobs—not a bad thing in itself—and give a boost to the parliamentary career path. With fewer government jobs to chase, more of parliament’s brightest could focus on chairing select committees, improving legislation and keeping the government in check; all of which would strengthen the legislature against an over-mighty executive.
In his chaotic June cabinet reshuffle Gordon Brown brought in a record number of lords, seen by some as an indication of a government low on steam. Much better to start…