Who governs Britain if no one wins the election outright?…


By William James

LONDON, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Britain’s parliamentary election is billed as a chance to decide what the country does next about Brexit, but the result of the Dec. 12 ballot may not be clear-cut, leaving parties scrambling to form alliances.

Opinion polls put Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives ahead, but the election is hard to predict because Brexit cuts across traditional political loyalties and has pushed parties to form pacts which could distort the result.

If no party wins an outright majority of around 326 seats, Johnson’s Conservatives and the main opposition Labour Party will have to look to smaller parties to see if they can find someone to support them in a minority government.


As prime minister, Johnson would make the first move – either to resign or try to form a minority government.

If he resigns or fails to find sufficient support, Labour leadre Jeremy Corbyn would have the opportunity to form a minority government.

According to statements made by smaller parties so far, Johnson is less likely to be able to form any kind of alliance than Labour in the event of a ‘hung’ parliament.


Any government needs to be able to win a vote in parliament to prove their ability to govern.

Whoever tries to run a minority government must therefore persuade one or more smaller parties to do one of the following:

  • vote with them so they can secure an outright majority
  • abstain, thereby lowering the total number of votes required for victory.

The calculations depend heavily on how many seats each party ends up with on Dec. 13.


SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY – Held 35 seats when parliament dissolved

The SNP has ruled out any formal coalition and says it would not vote to make Johnson prime minister. However, it could be willing to form an informal alliance with Corbyn if he agrees to consider giving Scotland another referendum on independence.

The SNP opposes Brexit and so could support any attempt by a minority Labour government to hold a second referendum on whether to leave the EU or not.

LIBERAL DEMOCRATS – Held 20 seats when parliament dissolved

The centrist party has ruled out any formal coalition and say it would not vote to install either Corbyn or Johnson as prime minister. It says it would decide issue-by-issue which policies they could support from a minority government.

The Liberal Democrats are also anti-Brexit, so would be unlikely to support any attempt by the pro-Brexit Conservatives to take Britain out of the European Union.

The Lib Dems want to cancel Brexit, but would be likely to support a minority Labour government that promised to hold a second referendum on leaving the EU. Labour has said it wants to negotiate a new exit deal with Brussels and then ask voters in a new referendum to either approve it or opt to remain in the EU.

DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY – Held 10 seats when parliament dissolved

Northern Ireland’s DUP kept a minority Conservative government in power between 2017 and October 2019. However, it is firmly opposed to the Brexit deal Johnson wants to implement.

The DUP, which wants Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom and supports Brexit in principle, has ruled out supporting a Corbyn-led government. (Reporting by William James Editing by Gareth Jones)

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