Thursday 18 January 2018

Cameron sounds out odds on minority government

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon

Dean Gray

British prime minister David Cameron may attempt to form a minority Conservative government after this week's election, even if he fails to secure a coalition agreement or a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, it has emerged.

Senior Conservatives have said Mr Cameron could declare victory if he gets more seats or votes than Labour on Thursday and attempt to bring forward a Queen's Speech in the House of Commons.

This would force Labour and the SNP to combine and vote down the Tories' legislative agenda.

In a further sign that the post-election period could be somewhat chaotic, the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said that her MPs would vote down a future Labour government's budget if it held the balance of power in parliament unless Ed Miliband changed his current plans. The former cabinet secretary, Gus O'Donnell, commented "it could be weeks" before a new government is formed.

"It could be multi-party, it could be mixtures of coalitions and deals - and the deals may be written or unwritten," he said. "There are all sorts of possibilities. I suspect all parties involved will definitely take more time to consult."

A string of polls released over the weekend again suggested that the election is too close to call. Two gave the Conservatives a one-point lead while another had the two main parties at level-pegging.

If replicated on Thursday the polls suggest the Conservatives will have the most seats and the most votes, but fall some way shy of an overall majority, even with the backing of the Liberal Democrats.

However, the Tories have just about managed to hold on to a tiny lead over Labour in the Press Association's poll of polls.

The Conservatives are on 33.8pc and Labour is on 33.5pc.

It is the seventh day in a row that the Tories have been ahead, albeit by a slim margin.

Ukip are in third place on 13.4pc, the Liberal Democrats are fourth on 8.4pc and the Greens are fifth on 4.8pc.

The poll of polls is calculated using a rolling average of every nationwide poll published in the last seven days.

All projections of the election result suggest the country remains on course for another hung parliament, with no party set to win the 326 seats needed to form a majority in the House of Commons. Should that happen, under convention, Mr Cameron would get the first chance to try to form a new government and would remain in Downing Street at least until his Queen's Speech is put to a vote in the House.

Senior Tories told 'The Sunday Times' that in that scenario Mr Cameron would declare victory and give a statement in Downing Street on Friday, challenging Mr Miliband to strike a deal with the SNP to bring him down. They say he will "quickly" argue that Labour cannot claim "legitimacy" to form a government if it is behind in its support and needs nationalist backing. Asked on the 'Sunday Politics' show whether Mr Cameron would test his support by bringing forward a Queen's Speech, the former foreign secretary, William Hague, said: "You would have to see the election results in that scenario."

Yesterday, Mr Cameron said that voters face an "inescapable choice" of either him or Mr Miliband in No 10.

Last night, Mr Miliband dismissed criticism of his decision to commission a "Moses-style" stone tablet etched with his promises, saying it made a serious point.

Mr Miliband unveiled the 2.4-metre high limestone tablet over the weekend in a car park in a seaside town in southern England, saying it showed how serious he was about keeping his policy promises.

But the quirky move drew ridicule from opponents and supporters alike with many social media users making jokey comparisons with the biblical figure Moses and his stone tablet bearing the Ten Commandments.

Mr Cameron mocked the tablet as a "tombstone," and other Conservatives said the move smacked of hubris and looked like Mr Miliband was assuming victory in what is poised to be the closest election for a generation.

Irish Independent

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