Journalists continue to ask the wrong question about hung Parliaments

With Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow, it is understandable that journalists are breaking out the hung Parliament speculation file.

Yet almost all the speculation is deeply flawed, repeating long-standing errors and failing even to learn from 2010.

Speculating about whether the Lib Dems might prefer Labour or the Tories in a hung Parliament may be fun, yet also mostly pointless.

That is for two reasons. First, it is the voters who get nearly all the power as it is the Parliamentary arithmetic that determines which party combinations are feasible. The chance of the third party leader having a full choice between which other party to support made for a fun Jeffrey Archer novel but is very unlikely in reality.

Second, the big choice that someone will have is for David Cameron and Ed Miliband: do you want minority government or coalition if there is a hung Parliament?

That is the big choice where politicians have a mostly free hand to pick the choice they want. Journalists ignored in before 2010, and as a result their pre-2010 speculation missed what was the crucial political decision that has shaped this Parliament – Cameron’s decision to prefer coalition.

Smart journalists won’t repeat that mistake for 2015.


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