Can a Rainbow Coalition work?

Conservative 307 [1]
100 3 97 10706647 36.1 3.8
Labour 258 3 94 -91 8604358 29 -6.2
Liberal Democrat 57 8 13 -5 6827938 23 1
Democratic Unionist Party 8 0 1 -1 168216 0.6 -0.3
Scottish National Party 6 0 0 0 491386 1.7 0.1
Sinn Fein 5 0 0 0 171942 0.6 -0.1
Plaid Cymru 3 1 0 1 165394 0.6 -0.1
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 0 0 0 110970 0.4 -0.1
Green 1 1 0 1 285616 1 -0.1
Alliance Party 1 1 0 1 42762 0.1 0
Sylvia Hermon 1 1 1 0 21181 1.1 0
Total Turnout 29653638 65.1 4

Gordon Brown has offered his resignation, as you will have all heard by now.

As you will all also know, as you are all so politically astute, there was no chance of a Lib-Lab pact while Brown was still Labour Leader.

Another thing you will all know, as Mat Bowles makes completely clear, is that any Lib-Con pact or accommodation is unlikely to get through the Liberal Democrat Triple-Lock.

So here are the potentials.

Lib-Con coalition government. This would command 367 MPs, easily enough to govern with but unlikely given that many of the Lib Dem membership, Parliamentary Party and probably Federal committee are opposed to.

Conservative minority. 307 seats here but an entirely viable option. For example, Canada has had a Conservative minority administration for some time.

A Rainbow [2] Alliance. Here things get interesting and this is what I want to talk about.

Nominally, with all 650 seats a majority would require 326 MPs. However, Sinn Féin do not take up their seats [3] so a majority in this house requires 323 seats.

Labour and the Lib Dems together command 315 seats between them. This leaves them either 11 or 8 seats short. The Alliance Party take the Lib Dem Whip in the Lords so I think it is safe to add their MP to the total. 10 or 7 to go. The SDLP are probably a safe bet too so we can add their three. 7 or 4 MPs to go.

As Splinty describes Sylvia Hermon “has functioned as a de facto Labour MP” since 2005. Likewise, it is safe to assume that the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas would not want to challenge a Government that keeps out the Tories, especially one so uninterested/hostile to environmental matters. However, it is unclear if they would want to enter a formal coalition, but could probably be relied on for Confidence and Supply votes.

Where does that leave us? Well 5 MPs short of the 326 needed for a de jure majority and 2 MPs short of a de facto majority.

Option one is that the nationalists abstain, with 14 MPs abstaining from all votes a de facto majority becomes 319 which a Rainbow Coalition can muster.

258 Labour + 57 Lib Dems + 3 SDLP + 1 Alliance = 319

Now this relies on Caroline Lucas, Sylvia Hermon and the Nationalists not voting down what I expect to be a formal coalition, possibly binded by a Coalition Contract as they use in Germany.

I began writing my conclusion before I’d worked through the electoral maths and I was ready to conclude it would be a “bloody mess” but I’m not so sure now and have revised my opinion accordingly.

This would be enough to get a Queen’s Speech through Parliament [4] in my opinion. No one has a War Chest anywhere near the size of the Conservative’s to afford another election, so most would be loathe to vote down a Lib-Lab coalition.

If that nationalists are needed then the SNP can be bought, they’ve made that quite clear, I also suspect that Plaid Cymru will be equally as pliant were the price right, but as I’ve shown above abstention might be enough, and would certainly be cheaper and more acceptable to the English electorate.

Of course the Queen’s Speech is just the first hurdle. A Rainbow Coalition must achieve Proportional Representation, almost certainly Single Transferable Vote, but this will be a tall order. MPs in the Labour party as ideologically different as Tom Harris and Jeremy Corbyn stand firm against it so there is no guarantee it could overcome this hurdle.

A short lived Lib-Lab coalition would be bad for all involved, as it seems likely that a flight to the Tories would take place. This makes securing some sort of PR utterly imperative to a coalition lasting more than a few months.

Although this may be a good election to lose I’m with Hopi and Paul, this dreadful situation makes it all the more important that the Tories are kept out.

As Tony Benn just said on BBC News “all solutions are interim” – how long this interim lasts is anyone’s guess but it is a real viable, option.

Update: Caroline’s in for Confidence and Supply.


[1] Thirsk & Malton is included in this seat tally as they are going to elect a Tory.

[2] I refuse to use “progressive” as I don’t believe in it and I don’t think it creates a particularly useful narrative in any case.

[3] Although I’m informed they do take the pay cheques but I would be happy to be proved wrong.

[4] A majority of those voting is enough I assume. I’m not completely fluent in the constitution but I assume 326 votes are not actually required for this vote.

8 thoughts on “Can a Rainbow Coalition work?

    1. Hang on… is it?

      650 – 16 (for Sinn Fein, the nationalists, Green and Sylvia abstaining which could be negotiated I’m sure) leaves 634 so that is 317 for a tie… so 319 would work, just. But I was trying to be conservative on Caroline and Syliva’s support even if I’m assuming the nats won’t vote to bring down the Rainbow.

    1. Thanks for you’re opinion John.

      I appreciate where you and David are coming from, I really do.

      But you’re wrong. The country would be gutted by a Tory administration just look here

      15,000,000 votes back the Lib Dems and Labour and most of those knew their vote was towards a Rainbow coalition like this.

      It would be easier if the Lib Dems took more seats of the Tories but our voting system make that almost impossible.

      The most I think about it, the more I think a Rainbow Coalition is necessary.

  1. My view is that the DUP can be bought, and cheaper than the SNP or Plaid. In fact, Lib-Lab-DUP gives you a bare majority.

  2. Oh yes, and the Shinners don’t get a Westminster pay cheque. They do get expenses, though the Tories have been rumbling about taking that away.

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