Election campaign

The fate of tiny parties in the Commons: history’s brutal lesson

There are currently 12 political parties represented in the House of Commons. Come the election, this number could fall to 10. There’s a chance that both the Alliance party of Northern Ireland and Respect could lose their sole MPs: respectively, Naomi Long and George Galloway.

Long has a majority of 1,533 in the seat of Belfast East, which she won in 2010 from DUP leader Peter Robinson. The DUP needs a swing of 2.2% to win it back.

Galloway won Bradford West from Labour at a by-election in 2012 on a mighty swing of 36.6%. Labour needs a swing of 15.5% to take it back, but has struggled to find a candidate.

Were both Long and Galloway to lose, it would continue a rather brutal tradition in parliament for small parties to be entirely wiped out at elections.

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Opinion polls

We still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in Scotland

Lord Ashcroft, the arch ringmaster of the election campaign, has done it again. Out of his hat he has pulled a clutch of constituency polls that have created yet another mini news-cycle and nudged the narrative of the election in a further unexpected direction. Take your pick from his bouquet of snapshots: Charles Kennedy losing his seat of Ross, Skye & Lochaber to the SNP; Gordon Brown’s former seat of Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath also falling to the SNP; Jim Murphy clinging to a lead of just one point in East Renfrewshire; or Labour ahead of the Tories in High Peak, the party’s 68th target seat.

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Election campaign

One of the biggest mysteries about the next parliament is when it will actually begin

We know exactly when the current parliament will end: 30 March. But we have no idea yet when the new parliament will begin.

The date for the assembly of what will be the 56th parliament of the United Kingdom has yet to be announced. This has been worrying Labour MP Graham Allen, chairman of the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform committee. Rather than entertain any more uncertainty about the timetable of events after the election, Allen is arguing that parliament needs to fix a date for its recall. He is suggesting that date be 9 May, just two days after the election.

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Election forecasts

Will any party get more than 300 seats?

A growing number of websites are making regular predictions of the election result. The Guardian is the latest to join the pack, offering daily forecasts based on a range of sources and calculations.

The greater the number of predictors, the better a picture we’re likely to get of the range of possible election outcomes. Or so you’d think. Instead all the main websites have converged on a very narrow band of numbers. Both Labour and the Conservatives are currently being forecast to win around 270-280 seats. That’s a very narrow prediction. What’s more, it’s one that is being suggested not just by the Guardian, but by May2015.com, Election Forecast, Elections etc. and even the bookies Ladbrokes.

Can they all be right?

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Election campaign

How the number of retiring MPs compares with past elections

It feels of late like an awful lot of MPs have been announcing their retirement. But in fact the current number standing down is roughly the same as it has been for six of the past eight elections:


I haven’t been able to find the figures for any elections before 1983, but I’ve read that the number of retirements in 1987 was, at the time, a post-war record.

A total of 757 MPs will have stood down from 1983 to 2015 election: over 100 more than the entire number of MPs in the present House of Commons.

There’s still time for the figure for 2015 to rise higher, of course. I doubt it will reach three figures, but even one more name would make 2015 the third highest exodus since the second world war.

Local elections

Tories take the lead in February’s council by-elections

There were no local by-elections this week. Contests are starting to dry up as we get nearer to 7 May, which besides being the date of the general election is also the date of local elections in many parts of England.

We’ve reached the point in the calendar where councils holding elections on 7 May are now barred from holding by-elections. As such we’ll see very few local contests between now and polling day.

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