How seriously should we take election speculation?
Several bookmakers this morning have tightened the price against a 2012 general election as talk mounts of the coalition breaking up and a possible confidence vote.
The key to all of this is whether one or more of the coalition partners wants it. For the Tories it would mean fighting on the 2010 boundaries which, as we saw then, led to the blues winning just 306 of the MPs against 344 non-Tories. This was even though Cameron’s party had 37% of the GB vote against Labour’s 29.7%.
A key part of the blue strategy since then has been to make the playing field slightly more level – hence the planned reduction in overall seat numbers to 600, the equalisation of constituency sizes and a new boundary review. But the latter is far from complete and the earliest that the new seats could be introduced is late 2013. An election before then would be on the old boundaries.
I’m sure that Cameron/Osborne are acutely aware of this and the need to get to the critical commons vote in October 2013 with the Lib Dems on side voting for the measure.
An election on the old boundaries would be challenging for the blues and they’d probably need a double digit vote lead to be confident of a majority. With Labour ahead in most polls that would be a huge task.
So what about the Lib Dems? Could they bring the coalition down? The resulting confidence motion in the commons would almost certainly trigger an election which I don’t think they would like to face just at the moment.
Maybe the outcome in Thursday’s by-election in Feltham could change that but I doubt it.
So I’ve not been tempted even by the Ladbrokes 5/1 against a 2012 election.