We Can’t Hang Anyone Yet!

The last time there was a hung parliament in the UK was in 1996, when John Major lost his absolute majority as a result of by-elections. Before that, there was one in 1977 when Labour’s James Callaghan was forced to form a coalition with the Lib Dems.

But the last time an election caused a hung parliament was February 1974. Here, Labour overtook the Conservatives as the largest party, but didn’t win an overall majority. Less than 8 months later, on September 18, Harold Wilson called an election for October 10.

We are now back in hung parliament territory, with the Conservatives as the largest party but not enough seats for an overall majority. However, we can’t hang anyone yet. Not until it is clear that a deal can’t be reached.

As the incumbent prime minister, Gordon Brown has the task of trying to form a government. That will probably mean doing some sort of deal with the Lib Dems and a number of the smaller parties. If successful, the resulting coalition government would be one elected by approximatley 52% of the voters. If it fails, Brown can resign and the Queen would call in David Cameron to have a go. The Conservatives only need to get the Lib Dems on their side in order to get a majority.

It seems that this system isn’t exactly one which is popular with some people. Today’s edition of the Sun reports that squatters have got in to Number 10.

A man aged 59 was squatting in a luxury home near the Houses of Parliament last night.

The squatter, names as Mr. Gordon Brown from Scotland, was refusing to budge from the Georgian townhouse in Downing Street, central London – denying entry to its rightful tenant.

The Sun,
Squatter, 59, holed up in No. 10

The BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson summed it up quite nicely yesterday evening, saying that up until now elections have been quite straight forward, and what we’ve been used to is one man – the looser – moving out and another – the winner – moving in. Instead, we have the man who many would agree is the looser in Number 10, whilst the man who many would agree is the winner stuck outside.

That is because the British constituation puts responsibility on the incumbent prime minister in the event of a hung parliament. But I’ve been doing a bit of research and found that this is not the case in Canada. They use the first-past-the-post system like the UK, and frequently have hung parliaments (known there as a minority parliaments). However, in Canada responsibility goes to the party with the largest number of seats and not the one which was previously in power.

Yesterday’s edition of the Ken Bruce Show on Radio 2 had a few suggestions. Perhaps they should put all 3 party leaders in to Number 10! As one texter wrote, there may be a few arguments in the cabinet room… but that would be nothing compared to the blood bath you’d get as the wives decide which color the curtains should be. Perhaps we might even see a few situations with the men saying to each other: “Who’s eaten that frozen curry from Tesco which I put in the fridge. It was mine”. (Slightly edited from the original text, but same meaning).

Or my personal favorite is to put all 3 party leaders inside Number 10 with Davina McCall on the outside. We can then vote off one of them each week until the last man inside gets to be prime minister.

I’m getting sidetracked here, but I will finish today by saying that Canadian hung parliaments usually last about 2 years, but if we go by the UK’s history of hung parliaments, the next election could be upon us within the next 12 months – my journalism teacher reckons October. The election campaign won’t be stopping any time soon, because all 3 main party leaders know that all it takes is one defeat in parliament, or for one of them to go back on a decision made as part of a deal, before any coalition government falls.

Fred Hart

Stock Controller and Radio Presenter/Producer

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