Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL LINFORD

WITH the two main parties deadlocked in the polls from the start, the 2015 election campaign has been dominated by speculation about who would do deals with who in the event of an inconclusive result.

Specifically, Labour has come under sustained attack from the Tories over whether it would allow itself to be propped up by the Scottish National Party if next Thursday's poll results in a hung Parliament.

Last week, I argued that Ed Miliband now had very little to lose by making clear that if Labour finishes second, he would not seek to use the votes of SNP MPs to propel himself into Number Ten.

As it turned out, the Labour leader went further than that, telling the BBC's Question Time audience on Thursday that he would rather not form a government at all if it meant doing any deals with the nationalists.

This, of course, does not mean that, if Labour is the largest party, he won't try to form a minority administration - possibly with Lib Dem support - and try to get a Queen's Speech through the Commons.

The logic would be that Labour would bring forward its programme and then challenge the SNP to vote it down, knowing that to do so would almost certainly mean another Tory government.

They won't, of course, which is why Mr Miliband has been right to call Nicola Sturgeon's bluff.

But what if the Tories finish first? Well, that's when predicting the ultimate outcome of this most complex of elections becomes really complicated.

First off, let me say that I view this as the most likely result, given Labour's near-meltdown in Scotland and the fact that most polls have the Tories a fraction ahead, albeit within the 3% margin of error.

But such is the electoral arithmetic that it does not automatically follow that a Tory Party which finishes first in terms of seats will be able to form a viable government.

Their natural coalition partners are the Liberal Democrats and the Democratic Unionists - but the Lib Dems are facing the possible loss of more than half of their 59 seats. Therefore even if the Tories finish in first place with around 280 seats, it's unlikely there will be enough Lib Dem or DUP MPs to get their numbers up to the magic figure of 323. …

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