If you take a simple average of all the latest forecasts of the election result*, the Conservative party has an 13-seat lead over Labour. Both the main parties are well short of the 326 needed for an absolute majority in the House of Commons, however:
This shouldn’t be a surprise. A hung parliament has been on the cards for at least six months, ever since Labour started losing ground to the SNP last autumn.
What’s only become a factor more recently is the tightness of the race between the Tories and Labour. Neither party looks likely to reach the 326 figure even through some kind of coalition or deal with, respectively, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. They wouldn’t even reach the notional figure of 323, which is the number for a majority once you deduct Sinn Fein, who don’t take their seats, and the Speaker, who doesn’t vote.
But there’s another way of looking at current forecasts.
With the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens now collectively identifying themselves as an anti-Tory group, it’s possible to line up most of the parties according to whether they are theoretically for or against the Conservatives:
For the sake of argument I’ve put the DUP with the Tories, even though they’ve said they would be prepared to negotiate with both the main parties. I’ve also left out Ukip, as there’s no way they’d serve in a coalition with the Lib Dems (and vice versa), though you can argue they’d still be more likely to vote with rather than against the Conservatives.
Yet even when you bunch together Labour, the SNP, the SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, it still doesn’t come to the magic number of 326 – though it does just nose past the 323 needed for a notional majority.
The SNP’s boast of “locking” the Tories out of government starts to look less convincing when you line up the parties this way, at least on the current forecasts.
What would clarify things at a stroke is if the Lib Dems decided to switch sides, as it were, and join the anti-Conservative bloc. But that would need a change of policy right at the top of the party. Assuming there still is someone at the top of the party come 8 May, of course.