Friday, 13 March 2009

Election algebra

I got interviewed for the BBC News web site at conference last weekend. I was quoted:
"Maybe they will have to compromise on some things, but I don't think it is necessary to form a coalition. I don't see why the largest party needs to be the one that forms the government.
. Actually, there's some stuff missing in that quote. What I really suggested was that if a coalition is formed, it doesn't need to contain the largest party. I gave the recent elections in Israel as an example, where there was a lot of talk of a coalition forming around the second party.

Anyway, someone was kind enough to email me and call me a cretin, on the basis of that quote. Using phrases like "completely fail to understand the concept of a democracy". Thanks, Iain, perhaps I'll return the favour some day.

"... based on that quote, you do come across as an utter cretin who's unaware they've just proposed something dangerously undemocratic and illiberal that would involve turning back the constitutional clock to the 18th century. "
he says.

But, now that he mentions it, perhaps there are circumstances under which the Queen might reasonably ask the second party to form a government. Indulge me for a moment, and please try not to blow a gasket, Iain.

Suppose, for example, that party A gets 40% of the vote, and 48% of the seats. Party B gets 55% of the vote, and 46% of the seats in parliament. Which party should form the government? What if supporters of party C (with 5% of the vote, and 6% of the seats) clearly express a preference for B over A in opinion polls.

Now, clearly a constitutional crisis (what Iain fears) occurs if party B is asked to form a government. But, in the figures above, I see a crisis occuring even if party A is asked to form the government.
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