Electoral pacts and the constitution by Andrew Blick


The May elections have prompted increased interest in the idea of an electoral pact between Opposition parties, aimed at defeating the Conservatives. It seems likely that an agreed objective of this kind of a pact would be electoral reform, moving to a more proportional means of determining the composition of the House of Commons. Such a goal, were it achieved, would have radical implications for the operation of the UK constitution.

This briefing note examines the historical backdrop to a potential electoral pact and the specific constitutional context provided by the UK’s ‘First-Past-the-Post’ electoral system.

Despite the potentially far-reaching ramifications for the UK constitutional system, little is known about how an Opposition pact would be received by voters in present circumstances. With this in mind, the Constitution Society specially commissioned a large-scale MRP poll, which asked over 14,000 members of the public how they would respond to a Pact between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. It found non-Conservative voters at whom the pact would be aimed to be receptive to the proposition. The poll predicted that with an electoral pact in place, Labour would gain an additional 36 seats, the Liberal Democrats 14 and the Greens eight. The Conservatives would lose 58 seats, enough to deprive them of their majority in the House of Commons.

Dr Andrew Blick is Head of the Department of Political Economy at King’s College London and Senior Adviser to The Constitution Society.

This publication presents the personal views of the author and not those of The Constitution Society, which publishes it as a contribution to debate on this important subject.