Who’s afraid of a hung parliament?

Although eight of the last UK polls show the Conservatives failing to win an overall majority, the extent to which the parties are still in denial over the possibility of a hung parliament in amazing. Part of it is about refusing to contemplate anything but total victory, but genuine fears of imminent disaster lurk in the background, with the markets plunging the UK into financial crisis the moment the exit polls are declared at 10 o’clock on election night. The problem affects more than the political class. The effect on the markets could be serious if the financial masters of the universe join in any fit of the jitters.
Two neutral-minded think tanks the Constitution Unit and the Institute for Government have taken on the task of trying to soothe fears and ease anxieties by showing how to handle transitions and run a minority government without damage to confidence and good government. CU director Robert Hazell says the Westminster veterans shouldn’t look down their noses at lessons to be learned from their former imperial offspring and, yes, even from Alex Salmond’s minority government at Holyrood.
David Owen, once the enfant terrible of British politics who split Labour to form the ill-fated SDP-Liberal Alliance that eventually merged into the Lib Dems (though without him), has more ambitious ideas for a hung parliament.

On the Today programme, Owen gave a plug for the website Charter 2010 which explores hung parliament themes. He seems to be hankering after a new centre ground again, broader than any one party, to govern the UK for the next four years and tackle the financial crisis he believes will be prolonged. “ Some people are afraid of a hung parliament, and a coalition, or minority government “ says Owen, “ But if public opinion is seized by it the parties would find ways of doing it.”

  • Marcionite

    I don’t necessarily see why the markets would plunge at news of a hung parliament as most if not all other European parliaments are hung so to speak all the time.

    It’s not as if it would be hung between the SWP or the BNP or some other state-shifting party.

    I know how entertaining the debating chamber at Westminster is and PMQs are worth a watch but the very physical shape of the chamber both encourages and invents opposition for it’s own sake and that is never good for the country.

    A collaborative horseshoe chamber maybe dull but it makes for better more reasoned government and coalitions put a check on the quixotic excesses of PMs.

    Yes the ya boo sucks may go as a consequence but do we really want Parliament to be Jerry Springer for failed barristers? And do we really need Parliament to be entertaining? Why should it be? It’s there to govern first and last.

    The above may seem like a digression from the thread but it’s not. If Market jitters do happen for the reasons stated at the top, then it’s because the Market sees the world through a very black and white testosterone tinted prism. It has to learn to behave and interpret world and domestic events to a greater degree of subtle analysis.

    Such a binary view of the world is given physical shape to the very voting system, the 2party system, winner takes all and the shape of Westminster itself

  • Scaramoosh

    A hung parliament would could cause the UK to lose its triple-A rating, and lead to a sterling crisis.
    This would derail the already fragile recovery.

    Whilst we cannot expect any political party to explicitly say that there will be a hung parliament
    (because of the message that this would send to the markets), the Tories have made it clear through their secret talks about Unionist unity, that they see it as a very real possibility.

    Tory dithering over cuts, is already spooking the markets, and in recent days sterling has taken something of a pasting against the dollar.

    All told, the truth is that winning the election outright might represent something of a poisoned chalice; with the prospect of a hung parliament even worse.

    Lose/Lose – with the markets deciding whether the UK will be having a full blown crisis.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    The Bankers with the help of their assistants in the media will allow those that are most subservant to them to triumph.

    Its the Banks stupid.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    subservant < subservient

  • Marcionite

    Scaramoosh – Does any other European nation lose AAA status when it fails to produce a singe party majority? Since when did one single party deliver us to the new Jerusalem anyway?

    Has we coalition government in the UK, “In Place of Strife” would have become law (The GFA equivalent for Trade Unions and employers) thus thwarting excesses of Trade Unionism and Thatcherism.

    Alternative history is 90% a parlour game but the above was a real possibility but scuppered by the egotisitical Callaghan (Uncle Jim my backside, self serving as most of them) because he couldn’t face a solution being put forward by a woman let alone Barbara Castle.

    I refer you to the points I made in #1

  • Scaramoosh

    The markets simply do not believe that in the context of the UK with its own currency, that a hung parliament will be the best option.

    How bad are things in the UK economy??


  • Drumlins Rock

    There is not a massive difference in the 3 parties so alot of legislation could go through even with a minority governemnt, ok some stuff will back up and a showdown will occur but another GE will happen, but throw the Liberals some sorta PR voting system and they will tag along till it is passed at least, which with soemtihng liek that wont but within the first coupel of years.

  • markets will only plunge if there is no chance of a Conservative Government. If it is tight, that there is a belief that they’ve already explored arrangements with the DUP will do no harm. Cameron has not only to make sure that notion is alive, but that he has worked and addressed such a contingency.

  • Markets will only plunge if there is no chance of a Conservative Government. If it is tight, that there is a belief that they’ve already explored arrangements with the DUP will do no harm. Cameron has not only to make sure that notion is alive, but that he has worked and addressed such a contingency.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    Personally I prefer the market to fall than rise. There was a time when the “markets” was confined to a 5 minute slot on the old Home Service News.

    Now I presume thanks to Margaret Thatcher and Breakfast News and 24 Hour News, we have a succession of “business reporters” interviewing a succession of “city wide boys” who talk of the market needing stability.

    I do not fear a Hung Parliament. The more that get hung the better.
    But I do fear Coalition Government…a Grand Coalition that will be able to “do” what a single party cannot do.
    We go into the Election knowing that there will be “cuts”.
    We go into it with Labour saying “our cuts will not be as bad as the Tories”
    The Tories say “yes but we are more realistic”

    And both will claim they will not affect their core vote. Thus in crass terms the working class and banker/wide boys will be protected by Labour and Tory respectively.

    A Grand Coalition seductively wrapped up as “National Recovery” will be able to make the perceived cuts without supporting their own narrow interests.
    Some might call that REALITY.
    Some might say it will be a difficult period made worse.

    A Coalition Government with only Lib Dems in opposition is a bad thing.
    Er except of course at Stormont….where it is agood thing.

  • slug

    “Personally I prefer the market to fall than rise. ”

    A man of limited means, I presume.

  • FitzjamesHorse

    I suppose so…but yuppies losing money always delights me.