UK Election Math: What are the Odds of a Hung Parliament?

-edited

With the UK general election less than five weeks away, let's analyze election chances.

The above chart is from Electoral Calculus. Prediction based on opinion polls from 25 Oct 2019 to 04 Nov 2019, sampling 15,917 people.

Tory Starting Point

Majority Math

  • 650 Seats
  • Expect Sin Fein to pickup one seat. If Sin Fein does not sit, and it's likely they don't sit, Parliament will have 642 MPs.
  • The Speaker and 3 deputies do not vote and are considered non-partisan.
  • 650-8-4 - 638.
  • A majority is over half. Thus 638/2 + 1 = 320

If the speaker and deputies do count, then the majority is 322.

DUP was part of Theresa May's fragile majority but will not be part of Johnson's.

Tory Starting Point 270

  • Assume the Scottish National Party wipes out 13 Tory seats,
  • Assume the Liberal Democrats alliance works and that tips 6 more seats.
  • One seat from Plaid Cymru seems headed to the Tories.

The net result of those subtractions is 270. Thus the Tories need to pick up 52 seats just to have a bare majority. How likely is that?

Battle for the Soul of Great Britain

In Battle for the Soul of Great Britain I discussed London and Wales.

Today, YouGov released polls for every region. Let's go over them all.

Regional Voting Intention Wales

Wales is divided into forty Parliamentary constituencies. After the General Election of June 2017 and a by-election in August 2019, 28 are represented by Labour MPs, 7 by Conservative MPs, 4 by Plaid Cymru MPs, and one by a Liberal Democrat MP.

On a 49-34 percentage lead in votes, Labour held a 28-7 seat advantage over the Tories.

Expect a Tory pickup of 8 seats.

North East - You Gov

Regional Voting Intention North East

The region of [North East England](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_North_East_(region/%29) is divided into 29 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 19 Borough Constituencies and 10 County Constituencies. Since the General Election of June 2017, 26 are represented by Labour MPs and 3 by Conservative MPs.

The Brexit Party could be a killer here. If they stood aside, I would expect the Tories to win about 16 seats. That's a pickup of 13.

The latest poll suggests a pickup of about 6-9 seats for the Tory Party. Call it 6.

North West - You Gov

Regional Voting Intention North West

The region of [North West England](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_North_West_(region/) is divided into 75 parliamentary constituencies

which is made up of 39 Borough Constituencies and 36 County Constituencies. Since the General Election of June 2017, 20 are represented by Conservative MPs, 54 by Labour MPs, and 1 by Liberal Democrat MPs.

With a 55-33 margin in favor of Labour over the Tories, the Tories managed 20 out of 75 seats.

The Tories are now leading 36-30. A pickup of 20 seats (40 Tory, 35 Other), seems reasonable.

The Brexit Party may cost additional pickups, but not as many as in the North East given the Tory majority.

Scotland Current MP Makeup

Regional Voting Intent Scotland

Labour will be wiped out in Scotland. With these numbers it is a bit unreasonable to expect a total blowout where conservatives lose every seat. Let's assume they hold 4.

Regional Voting Intention Northshire and Humber

The region of [Yorkshire and the Humber](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_Yorkshire_and_the_Humber_(region/) is divided into 54 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 25 Borough Constituencies and 29 County Constituencies. As of September 2019 17 are represented by Conservative MPs, 35 by Labour MPs, 1 Liberal Democrat MP and 1 Independent MP.

That makeup was with a 49-34 advantage of Labour over the Tories.

I suggest a Tory pickup of 15 or more. Call it 15.

Regional Voting Intention East Midlands

The region of [East Midlands](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_East_Midlands_(region/) is divided into 46 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 12 Borough Constituencies and 34 County Constituencies. Since the General Election of June 2017, 31 are represented by Conservative MPs and 15 by Labour MPs.

With a 51-41 (10-point) lead, the Tories had a 31-15 seat advantage. The Tory lead is now 13 points.

Expect a pickup of 5-8 seats. Call it 6.

Regional Voting Intention West Midlands

The ceremonial county of [West Midlands](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_West_Midlands_(county/), England is divided into 28 parliamentary constituencies, each of which elect one Member of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons.

Despite a 49-43 lead over Labour in 2017, Labour held 20 seats with the Tories 8.

With a 43-23 lead, expect a reversal. Tories +12.

Regional Voting Intention East of England

The region of [East of England](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_East_of_England_(region/) is divided into 58 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 16 Borough Constituencies and 42 County Constituencies. Since the General Election of June 2017, 50 are represented by Conservative MPs, 7 by Labour MPs, and 1 by Liberal Democrat MPs.

On a 55-33 vote in 2017, the Tories held 50 MPs with Labour only 7.

Assume a modest gain of 2 but with Labour losing a handful more to the Liberal Democrats.

Regional Voting Intention South East

The region of [South East](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Parliamentary_constituencies_in_the_South_East_(region/) is divided into 84 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 23 Borough Constituencies and 61 County Constituencies. 60 are represented by Conservative MPs, 11 by Independent MPs, 8 by Labour MPs, 3 by Liberal Democrat MPs, 1 by Green MPs and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

On a 54-29 vote percentage the Tories held 60 of 81 seats.

They rate to pick up 5-8. Call it +5. Labour rates to get smashed to 0-2 seats.

Regional Voting Intention Greater London

The region of Greater London, including the City of London, is divided into 73 parliamentary constituencies which are sub-classified as borough constituencies, affecting the type of electoral officer and level of expenses permitted. As of September 2019, 46 are represented by Labour MPs, 19 by Conservative MPs, 4 by Liberal Democrat MPs, 2 by The Independent Group for Change, and 2 are held by independents.

On a 55-33 voting lead (22 points) over the Tories, Labour held an edge in seats of 46-19.

The lead is now down to 10 points. Expect a Tory pickup 8 seats.

Regional Voting Intention South West

The region of South West England has, since the 2010 general election, 55 parliamentary constituencies which is made up of 15 Borough Constituencies and 40 County Constituencies. In the 2017 general election, the Conservatives remained, by far, the largest party with 47 seats, though losing three to Labour, who won 7, and one to the Liberal Democrats, who won 1.

On a 51-29 lead in votes (22 points) the Tories held a seat advantage over Labour by a 47-7 margin. The lead is now down to 20 not over Labour, but over the Liberal Democrats.

This is another region in which the Brexit Party might hurt the Tories significantly.

I expect a loss of about 5 seats but also with Labour getting clobbered by the Liberal Democrats.

Expected Gains vs Starting Scenario

  • London: +8
  • Wales: +8
  • North East: +6
  • North West: +20
  • Scotland: +4
  • Yorkshire and Humber: +15
  • East Midlands: +6
  • West Midlands: +12
  • East of England: +2
  • South East: +5
  • South West: -5

That is a total of +81 seats.

Allowing 8 Sin Fein candidates who will not sit, plus the nonvoting speaker and three deputies, the parliament effective size is 638 as explained above, making the majority 320.

From the starting point of 270, the Tories are up to 351 by my estimation. That's a surplus of 31 over the required 320.

If so, the Tory majority based on current polls would be 351 - 287 = 64.

That's a very conservative number actually.

On the same polls Electoral Calculus said "Current Prediction: Conservative majority 96".

Electoral Calculus gave the Tories 373 seats, I estimated only 351, a huge 22 seats more cautious.

The above charts from the Nov 8 YouGov article Regional voting intentions show both main parties down everywhere, with Labour hit particularly hard.

Two Caveats

  1. All of the polls are from one source: You Gov
  2. Most of the polls are a bit out of date, but not radically so.

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario could easily be above 351.

Let's assume YouGov is way off, possibly even low.

Expected Gains Range vs Starting Scenario

  • London: +5 to +10.
  • Wales: +6 to +10.
  • North East: +3 to +8.
  • North West: +15 to +22.
  • Scotland: +0 to +6.
  • Yorkshire and Humber: +10 to +20.
  • East Midlands: +3 to +9.
  • West Midlands: +9 to +16.
  • East of England: +0 to +4.
  • South East: +3 to +7.
  • South West: -7 to +0.

Expected Range

  1. 37 + 270 = 307.
  2. 112 +270 = 382.

The first is a hung parliament.

The second is the mother of all blowouts.

And it is not all that unlikely.

Note that Electoral Calculus expects 373 seats. My blowout number is just 9 seats more that the Electoral Calculus base assumption.

Probabilities Based on Current Polls

  • Outright Labour Win: 2%
  • Hung Parliament: 23%
  • Small Majority (by 1-6 seats): 15%
  • Medium Majority (by 7-20 seats): 25%
  • Big Majority (by 21-40 seats): 20%
  • Blowout (over 40 seats): 15%

Divide and Concur

If these polls are remotely close, and I believe they are, Johnson's strategy of splitting Labour and the Liberal democrats is working precisely as planned.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock

Comments (70)
No. 1-25
Quatloo
Quatloo

Johnson is the only candidate who has cross-party support. He was elected Mayor of London as a conservative!

I am really looking forward to the debates; Teresa May didn’t even show up. Boris will dominate.

Heffaklump
Heffaklump

Excellent write-up. Really fun that the best election coverage of UK elections comes from Illinois. Btw, small error for West Midlands, 49-23, should be 49-43.

Jackula
Jackula

That's a deep dive down the UK elections rabbit hole, excellent analysis! Knowing how corp media tends to poll slightly left this might be the mother of all blowouts!

Bagger
Bagger

Love the article. One slight correction. 351 seats would give a majority of 31 × 2 = 62 since all opposition seats would total 289.

Bastiat
Bastiat

One correction: Edinburgh South Labour MP is extremely likely to keep his seat. So it's not a total Labour wipeout in Scotland.

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

Will this nitty gritty, convoluted, utterly premature analysis be anywhere near reality on that cold dark short day in December... closer to hell than to Christmas ?

This is first week NOVEMBER not the day before the election. Bojo´s foot-in-mouth comments á la Joe Biden can mean a make-it-or-break-it moment for him and the Tories. Jacob Rees Mogg has been working hard at it this very week.

What about weather-event impact ? Will young people have the willingness, stamina and civil-duty awareness to go vote thru a blizzard as their elders would come rain or shine with a "do or die" and "no ifs or buts" attitude ?

Do not underestimate the gray-hair brigade. They out-number their perceived enemy and still hold a vivid recollection of German politics and WW2.

If very recent history is any guide, the 2017 election forecasts missed target figures by a looooongshot. Skeptics please ask Theresa May.

What about "silent" social media campaigns, live events, and word of mouth, impact of which opinion polls can´t measure ?

The British electorate has barely been exposed to specific candidates which DO matter much. Bojo is a very poor candidate and his own worst enemy. Debates haven´t begun. Partisan argumentation has barely started and Bojo´s "deal" half-lies haven´t yet sinked in. Even the EU plays a role

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

" Do or DRY ? "

Bojo the half-clown half-gambler half-liar has claimed he has given up booze until Brexit is "done".

Nigel Farage replied shooting from the hip: " Hell no, I won´t be giving up the booze until Brexit is done because under the Boris plan that will be many years at best."

Will enough voters realize the above by election day ?

Cuz therein lies the result. It all depends on whether voters become aware soon enough that Bojo´s NON-"deal" won´t get anything "done", let alone Brexit.

avidremainer
avidremainer

By now you should all have seen the liar's performance in Northern Ireland where he attempts to explain his deal to Irish businessmen/women. If you haven't seen it Brexitologist provides a link in Mish's previous post on this topic. You must see it because it shows the liar at his worst. The liar states that there will be no border down the Irish sea, no customs checks, and no levying of customs duties or VAT of on goods going GB-Northern Ireland. This is either a flat lie, or the liar doesn't understand his own deal or he is attempting to fool the EU. You do not have to take my word for it. You can see for yourself. In the report he looks drunk-even though we are told he was drinking water, he rambles and is at best incoherent. Watch him in action and weep for the consequences for this puffed up sick bag and the Tories. When you have seen it watch Kay Burley empty chair James [not so] Cleverly on SKY news, Sky news for god's sake, and come back and tell me that the liar is a better campaigner than May. I will not be getting a room with Brexitologist, thank you Quatloo, but doesn't it worry any of you that two people with such opposite views on Brexit come to the same conclusion; that the current PM of our country is a charlatan?

djwebb1969
djwebb1969

I think we just have to accept that Brexit is dead and that Johnson has delivered the death blow. The Conservatives will win a majority and then agree a degree of alignment of regulations (environmental, social and others), taxation, fisheries, defence affairs with the EU similar to what Theresa May was proposing. It is absurd to expect Johnson to do anything else. The deadline will be extended to 2022, with Britain paying £59bn. Northern Ireland is being prepared for a referendum to get rid of it and hand it over the EU. The UK will be permanently subject to ECJ rulings in many areas. But there is the possibility of agreeing lower tariffs with the US, China and others -- the resulting trade pact will be underwhelming, as regulatory alignment with the EU will ensure the "capture" of large parts of the UK market for the EU. This is no Brexit. Brexit is dead. But then you don't always get what you want in life. Only a scoundrel would vote for Johnson - no patriot could. I don't expect I will vote for anyone in this election or in any other.

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

@djwebb1969, guys, Mish...

In every ELECTION candidates and issues DO matter !! It´s political campaigning 101...

Parties, yes, they do matter UNLESS the party has got the issue wrong and/or the candidate is bad.

Think Corbyn (bad candidate) and Labour´s undefinable messy proposal (wrong) Think Boris (terrible candidate) and his yet-to-be-revealed NON-"deal" plain lies (wrong)

If you offer lemonade, it better taste like fresh lemons, NOT stale tomatoes.

Jo is a good candidate and has got the issue right on the mark. I´m not so sure about the Lib Dems campaigning capabilities + effectiveness though. She´ll still do well with Remainers, I guess.

Same goes for Farage and his Brexit clean-cut proposal, then negotiate Free Trade deal from OUTSIDE of the EU but always crashing out first. Brexit Party knows lots about campaigning. Farage is an excellent candidate and will do very well with Leavers.

Theresa May learned the hard way that in the UK opinion polls a month before election day are literally worthless.

Brexit fatigue may have some/many vote for Bojo with a terrible backlash for Tories in late 2020. Brexit is alive and kicking, not dead.

Corbyn´s cumbersome NON-solution (as "perfect" as it may sound) will cost him dearly.

djwebb1969
djwebb1969

Mish, 351 is not a majority of 31, even though it exceeds 320 by 31. The reason is the opposition are correspondingly reduced. In fact, if you way there are 638 functioning MPs, and the Tories win 351, then the opposition win 287, which is a majority of 64.

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

Is the answer to Mish´s question 0 (zero) or 100% ?

Mish posits with his analysis and number crunching that the odds of the UK getting a "hung" Parliament is 0 (zero) as Bojo-led Tories would gain a comfortable lead after the Dec. 12 elections.

My take is exactly the opposite. The chances of the UK getting a "hung" Parliament are 100% with no workable majority along Brexit (or non-Brexit) lines. Dejá vu, back to square one, Brexit rewind.

Mish
Mish

Editor

It is damn idiotic to propose a 100% chance of a hung parliament. Any by the way I did not propose 0%. In fact, I explicitly estimated it to be 23%. Some people cannot read.

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

OKay, touché, sorry for that.

Fact check: Mish said that the probability of a "hung" Parliament was 23%, not 0 (zero) as I mention above.

Labour would be getting 2% (!)

I admit making a mistake (my apologies Mish) but allow me to add that I was definetly influenced by his adamant calculations of Bojo´s sure win (75%) with still one full month till Dec. 12 and with the not unlikely possibility of the "Mother of All Blowouts".

Mish
Mish

Editor

A couple people noted my mathematical error in factoring a majority. Thanks!

I made this correction.

Allowing 8 Sin Fein candidates who will not sit, plus the nonvoting speaker and three deputies, the parliament effective size is 638 as explained above, making the majority 320.

From the starting point of 270, the Tories are up to 351 by my estimation. That's a surplus of 31 over the required 320.

If so, the Tory majority based on current polls would be 351 - 287 = 64.

That's a conservative number actually. On the same polls Electoral Calculus said "Current Prediction: Conservative majority 96".

Electoral Calculus gave the Tories 373 seats, I estimated only 351, a huge 22 seats more cautious.

Mish
Mish

Editor

Electoral Calculus expects 373 seats on this set of polls.

I came up with 351.

My blowout best possible (based on current polls) number is just 9 seats more that the EC base assumption.

I was very cautious calculating seat gains. Way more so than EC.

Casual_Observer
Casual_Observer

What are the odds that @Country Bob will even read this post much less understand it ?

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

Mish,

The Lib Dems have a very precise message and high quality candidates, same as The Brexit Party plus their very own excellent campaign deployment capabilities.

In turn, the Tories with Bojo as cheer leader, have made front-page with blunders, nothing else. And voters haven´t yet had enough time to become aware that Bojo´s NON-"deal" won´t get anything "done", let alone Brexit.

Yet you say you were "very cautious calculating (Tory) seat gains".

But we are still a long month away from election day, aren´t we ? In 2017 Theresa May also counted the chickens before the eggs hatched.

And you only took into account rather oldish poll data exclusively from one source: You Gov.

So, I mean, as intellectually attractive as this excercise might sound, because of reasons stated before it can also be interpreted as Tory propaganda no ?

In a nutshell, I´d say that at this early stage qualitative analysis is valid. But quantitative analysis with highly perishable data is not.

Moody´s Report said that " even if a deal were struck with the European Union over Brexit, uncertainty over the future of trade is unlikely to diminish " .

liberty lady
liberty lady

I have a question regarding the need for customs checks in the Irish Sea. While they may (or may not) be part of a deal with the EU, what mechanism exists to enforce them? Is this not in practice a matter between N Ireland and the rest of the UK?

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

@Liberty lady yes, this would be a matter between N.I. and the UK, with OVERSIGHT from the EU and the ECJ which would at all times demand compliance of Bojo´s new EU Treaty proposal. So there´ll be (high ?) friction from the get go with "geographic indicators" leading the way. If interested or affected (surely you are) by the above please look into it ASAP.

Customs control (and customs fees collection) can be one huge problem between countries. And this is what the Irish Sea border is doing, i.e., in practice now considering N.I. as a different country from the UK.

Basically, this is the pound of flesh that the EU always wanted to just keep on talking about Brexit. Do no rule out civil unrest and physical violence with this highly contentious arrangement which very understandably the DUP abhors. No one ever voted for England, Scotland and Wales to leave the EU while Northern Ireland stayed part of the bloc.

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

" Brexit is an uncanny political process because it is an inversion of the way things were supposed to go "

" Until recently, it was possible to believe that there was a middle way... That´s no longer the case "

Brexitologist
Brexitologist

Tory & Labour election campaign shenanigans.

What if forecasts are wrong yet again and both Labour AND Tories lose badly ? Are voters that dumb ?

JustASimpleMan
JustASimpleMan

One small factor that might make a difference at the margin - Sinn Fein announced that they are going to stand aside in 3 of their 7 seats for a remain favouring candidate (likely SDLP). The SDLP will also stand aside in 3 seats to maybe give SF a chance against sitting DUPs.

Net result - 3 remain seats will now turn up in parliament and there may be up to 3 fewer DUP MPs to suck it up and accept any sort of deal or to oppose revocation / 2nd referendum.

Apologies if someone already said this. I lost the will to live reading the rambling thoughts of Avid and Brexitologist and skipped a lot.

JustASimpleMan
JustASimpleMan

The Deed Is Done!

Farage just announced they will stand down candidates in 300+ Tory seats to concentrate on Labour and remainer party seats.

Expect a pro-Brexit majority in the House, with a significant rump of Brexit Party and Tory Spartans agitating for a WTO trade arrangement and no extended transition period. Game on.

.