Before last Thursday’s leaders’ debate the LibDems privately conceded they’d lose some seats to the Tories on May 6th. Their best case scenario was that they’d be in the position of King-maker in a hung parliament and the price of their (external) support would be electoral reform. However, it’s probable that any party would have to offer a referendum on this, which one can see being defeated (just threaten them with European-style weak and unstable government; Coalition isn’t British etc.)
The latest polls suggest the LibDems be close to the Conservatives for largest party on the popular vote. But because of biases within the electoral system (the party’s support is spread more evenly (thinly) than either the Labour or Tory vote) it may still be the smallest party by a distance and Labour, even if it is the third placed party would still be the largest party in parliament. Below shows the predictions based on a uniform national swing from UK polling report swingometer.
This ‘anomaly’ will surely make it easier to pass that referendum. The LibDems have long been attached to our system of PR-STV, but most acknowledged it was ‘too complicated’ for British voters – even though it doesn’t demand any strategic thought on the voters’ part – and therefore it was thought unlikely to pass. So AV was seen as next best (PR-STV in single seat constituencies). It is ironic that in the demand for political reform various countries will change from their status quo to systems from which other countries are also demanding reform. Even if David Farrell and Michael Gallagher’s arguments haven’t already done so, this fact alone should caution us about the need for major electoral reform.