What Is a Hung Parliament and What Does It Mean for the General Election?

For so long during this UK general election campaign, it looked like Boris Johnson and the Conservatives were going to breeze to the majority they so crave as the populous heads off to the ballot box once more.

However, it’s quite possible that the worm has turned somewhat in the past couple of days….

YouGov, who are considered one of the leading polling authorities, have revealed that the Tory majority in their poll has been more halved in the past week, from the 68-seat majority Boris and co were expected to enjoy down to just 28.

YouGov Poll Results - Final General Election 2019

Final Election Poll Data via YouGov

That would still be an increase of 21 seats from the disastrous 2017 campaign, and would be enough to see them restore outright power in the House of Commons.

But the extreme nature of the Conservatives’ losses means that the experts at YouGov ‘cannot rule out’ the possibility of a hung parliament. That would leave the Tories needing to be topped up once again like they were two years ago by the DUP.

The YouGov poll isn’t always right and does have a large margin for error, but there is a chance – odds of 9/4 with the bookies imply a probability of 27.8% – that we could wake up on Friday morning with a hung parliament.

What is a Hung Parliament?

Hung Parliament Union Jack FlagTo get a complete majority, where that political party wins the election outright, they need to win 320 seats or more from the voting that takes place across the UK.

Sometimes, as was the case in 2017, the party in question wins the most seats but doesn’t get enough to cross that 320 threshold – meaning a ‘hung parliament’ with no overall majority.

What tends to happen here is that the party who won the most seats seeks the support of others that can take them over the 320-seat mark. So, in 2017, the beleaguered Theresa May was able to count on the additional seats of the Northern Irish outfit the DUP to get her government over the line.

The really interesting scenario tends to unfold when the party with the most seats cannot find enough support to form a government.

Will the 2019 UK General Election End in a Hung Parliament?

It should be said at this point that the bookies and the polls both believe that the Conservatives will secure that required 320+ majority, at which point Boris Johnson would be given full power to rule the country and there wouldn’t be another general election, barring an unforeseen event, for another four years.

General Election 2019 Overall Majority Betting Odds

However, there is still time for that to change – particularly as the sentiment of the public appears to be deserting Boris and co in its droves. There are a number of constituencies that appear to be too close to call.

If a hung parliament is the result of the UK general election, the party that was in power before the ballot opened, i.e. the Conservatives, will remain in 10 Downing Street until a government can be formed, or if the Tories are allowed to rule with a minority from the Commons.

How Would a Hung Parliament Be Resolved This Time?

Given that the DUP felt like they were stabbed in the back in the terms of the Brexit deal, it is unlikely that they would offer support to the Conservatives without significant changes to the EU withdrawal bill.

The polls suggest that the Brexit Party have an outside chance of winning a seat or two in the general election, and their support might just be enough to get Boris Johnson over the line.

General Election 2019 - Next Government Odds

However, if Boris cannot form a coalition with his allies, he may be forced to resign.

That would open the door for a pact between their rival parties, with Labour likely to be the next in line.

Jeremy Corby and Jo Swinson are sworn enemies, but they sing from a similar hymn sheet as far as Brexit is concerned and that might just be enough to see them put their differences aside.

Support from nationalist groups such as the SNP and Plaid Cymru could also be forthcoming, but again that would be unlikely to tally up to the 320 seats required to form a recognised coalition.

It may even yet end up with a coalition between the Conservatives and Labour, whereby the Brexit agreement would be altered to allow for the possibility of a second referendum.

Ultimately, if Thursday’s polls do not see a majority party victory, UK politics could once again be in limbo.