Barnburner in the UK

Now that we’re past the Israeli elections–if not the crucial aftermath–another big fix for political junkies is much closer on the horizon than you might guess: the British general election on May 7 (technically, the existing Parliament will be “dissolved” on March 30; only then will the short sprint of the election season formally begin).

Right now the outcome looks likely to be as close and perhaps even initially inconclusive as the Israeli balloting. A new polling team convened by HuffPost Pollster has released a preliminary model for the voting:

The model’s most recent update shows a “neck and neck” contest between the Conservative and Labour parties. Their current polling average gives a slight but largely meaningless advantage (32.2 to 31.5 percent) to the Labour Party, led by Ed Milliband, over the ruling Conservative Party of Prime Minister David Cameron, trailed by smaller parties including UK Independence (14.8 percent), the Liberal Democrats (8.4 percent) and the Green Party (6.4 percent). However, when the model current trends forward, it forecasts a “dead heat” of 33.7 percent support for both Conservative and Labour on May 5.

Translating that into districts won in the UK’s first-past-the-post system for the 650 seats in the House of Commons:

Their current projection gives Labor a twenty seat advantage (285 to 265) with the following break-down (along with a potential range of outcomes in parentheses:

265 Conservative (235-293)
285 Labour (260-313)
49 Scottish National Party (34-56)
24 Liberal Democrats (17-33)
3 UKIP (1-5)
6 Other (4-9)
18 seats in Northern Ireland (not forecast)

Another coalition government looks very likely, with the most likely configurations being a continuation of the Tory/Lib Dem alliance–even though the latter party has lost considerable support while in government–or a Labour/Scottish National Party alliance, building on the SNP’s recent surge in popularity (ironically after the failure of the Scottish independence referendum). Note that the anti-Europe, anti-immigrant UKIP, the big bad wolf in recent European parliamentary elections, scores nearly half the Tories’ popular vote but no more than 5 seats in Parliament.

Could be a wild one. We’ll be checking in on it periodically.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.