4 May 2015

Tories: is it 290+ MPs or bust?

If the Tories get above 290 MPs they plan to give it a go walking back through the door of No 10 with the strong intention of staying put.


David Cameron will say either (depending on the numbers and the willingness of potential partners to pick up the phone) “I’m chatting to the Lib Dems and the DUP” or “I’m the guy with the most seats and votes and therefore I should govern even if it is alone” (ushering in a minority government).

In the latter case in particular he would have to shift quickly (as he did in 2010) from partisan language to “reaching out/consensus” language and try to add an additional rhetorical layer of legitimacy to his claim on the top job.

He would also face a mighty challenge from the Labour leadership if they felt they could command a majority in the Commons.

It will not be easy. He would, in those circumstances, be looking at Labour being on a number at or around 270 MPs. They might, with SNP and other parties’ support, get to 323, in those circumstances. It is far from a done deal that the Tories’ plan would work.

There are any number of hurdles in front of David Cameron in this scenario. The 1922 Committee Executive will take part in a conference call late on Friday afternoon to discuss what they make of what by then should be the full results. On Monday at 11am the 1922 Committee is holding a meeting in parliament. If David Cameron pushed for a coalition with the Lib Dems he could find himself trying to sell it here or taking the temperature to see if it would be fatal to try.

Whether Tory MPs would go for another coalition would depend on the Commons numbers and the stability on offer. Some in the leadership haven’t given up on turning the meeting into a show of hands – “a British Leyland style meeting,” one senior Tory says dismissively. Figures on the 1922 executive seem clear it would have to be a secret ballot.

If David Cameron decided to go ahead with a minority government, daring Labour to hook up with the SNP, senior Tories say he would not consider a Queen’s Speech defeat a sign that he must pack up and quit. Tories say that the Queen’s Speech is now amendable after the Speaker created the precedent last year. Tories say the government could come back more than once with altered Queen’s Speeches and still not have lost the right to rule.

All of this could yet look presumptuous by the Tories. Small shifts in votes can still alter the blurred picture. The first 30 most marginal Tory seats that Labour hopes to win need less than 16,500 votes to changes sides. That’s the capacity of Carlisle’ football ground, or 20 per cent of Wembley’s capacity.

Labour’s internal assessment last week put it at 285 (with an uplift from 12 seats in Scotland). It sees 270 as the magic number that makes its claim on No. 10 indisputable.

Labour will be hoping Russell Brand’s last minute endorsement has helped in the required shifts. He’s issued a Vote Labour plea to his followers, but having previously told them not to vote I wonder if he knows they needed to register some time ago?

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4 reader comments

  1. Andrew Dundas says:

    Only the SNP can divide the Left.
    Which is their intention: to return a Tory Government of the UK.
    And the SNP’s prime trigger: expect the SNP to claim that the result proves that only by becoming a brand new EU State will Scotland get a left-leaning government.
    [but as 1% of the EU voting power].

    1. Brian says:

      Always the same argument, the SNP are splitting the left vote. In the 2010 general election, the conservatives took 306 seats, 305 of them in England. Labour took 258. Check out the 2010 general election web page (sorry can’t seem to link the URL) to confirm the seats, the SNP are definitely taking seats from labour and the lib dems but if the UK wants a labour government, England needs to vote for it as well.

      1. Andrew Dundas says:

        Labour’s likely to get an increase in Labour MPs in England & Wales. But lose out big time to the brand new Party of the Left. Which could mean the Tories win the government, thanks to the SNP.

  2. Philip Edwards says:


    If we had decent and honest politicians it would scarcely matter what the make up of parliament was. The country would be governed accordingly.

    But that isn’t what we have. Instead, MPs constitute a soap opera of bought-and-paid-for, expenses-fiddling, warmongering, Yank pandering poodles and tenth rate cowards without social conscience. Damned self serving scoundrels the lot of them.

    If the same disgusting mentality is returned to power this country deserves full measure of the even more inflicted profiteering neocon misery that is bound to follow……government by the thieving spivs of Canary Wharf and their yesmen in Westminster and Whitehall.

    After which there will be no point whining about society because there won’t BE any society worth the title. Or decency either.

    Even if a miracle was to occur and we had a revolution it would take at least another generation to eliminate the far right corruption of the last thirty five years.

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