The results of the 2010 UK general election are in, and the winner is … no one. It was a draw.
Well, kind of. Neither of the two big parties – the Conservatives and Labour – won enough seats in this election to govern in their own right, both falling short of winning an absolute majority in the 650-seat House of Commons.
To govern in their own right, a party needs to control 326 seats. But this time around the Tories (Conservatives) won 306 seats, Labour 258, and the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) 57. The remaining 28 seats were won by minor parties (including the Greens, who won their first ever UK seat; and the election in one seat was delayed until later this month).
Nationwide, the Tories got 36.1 per cent of all votes cast, Labour 29 per cent and the Lib Dems 23 per cent.
So the UK now has a hung parliament, and both Tories and Labour desperate to do a deal to secure the support of the Lib Dems in order to form a government. Both Labour and the Tories yesterday made offers to the Lib Dems, and now the political flirting and jostling and deal-making has begun in earnest.
The outcome is far from certain.
Here’s a few possible options for what happens next.
First, the Tories could go into a formal coalition with the Lib Dems. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said that because the Tories won most seats, the Tories should get “first right” at forming government. A Conservative-Lib Dem deal would make Tory leader David Cameron the new prime minister, and possibly see some Lib Dems joining the cabinet. As the price of offering their support, the Lib Dems would want plenty of concessions from the Tories. The Lib Dems’ biggest hope is for electoral reform: to make the number of seats won in parliament more representative of the number of votes that party received. But the Tories much prefer the existing system, making a deal problematic.
Second, Labour and the Lib Dems could form a coalition. The Lib Dems have far more in common with Labour than the Tories; and Labour is happy to accept the Lib Dems’ demand for voting reform. But the flipside to this is that the Lib Dems would be keeping in power a party that did not win the most seats. If there is a Labour-Lib Dem deal it’s not a certainty Gordon Brown would remain as prime minister. The Lib Dems and/or Labour could decide it would be untenable to keep a bloke who lost the election as PM; and therefore install a different Labour MP – possibly David Miliband or Alan Johnson – as PM.
Lastly, if neither Labour nor Tories do a coalition deal with the Lib Dems, the Tories – as the biggest party in parliament – could decide to form a minority government, in which case they would need the support of the Lib Dems to get their legislation and budget through parliament. The Tories could either do an informal deal with the Lib Dems, or just seek out parliamentary support on an ad hoc basis.
Whatever happens, it’s unlikely the new government will be known before Monday.
In the meantime, convention dictates that Gordon Brown will remain as prime minister until a new government is formed – basically, it’s up to the incumbent PM to resign in order for a new government to be formed. Usually the outcome of the election is obvious, so the PM either continues on his (or her) merry way in charge of the country, or resigns. Once it’s clear who the new PM will be, they will be invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen. The incoming PM will kiss the Queen’s hand, thus putting them in charge of the country.