The magic number is 326. This is the number of seats a party needs to win to form a majority government. As of 6 April, the Conservative Party is projected to win 287 seats, Labour 271, Liberal Democrats 27 and the SNP 42. This will result in another hung parliament. Should the Conservatives fail to negotiate a suitable coalition settlement with other parties, including the DUP, UKIP and Lib Dems, Labour will be offered the chance to form a government. I argue that this has the potential to produce a more left-leaning government than an outright Labour majority (however unlikely).
Labour has formally ruled out a coalition with the SNP. Therefore, any co-operation would be on a vote-by-vote arrangement. Simple maths suggests that an alliance of Labour and the SNP is not enough to form a majority (313). This will require the entrance of the Liberal Democrats onto the bargaining table, with or without Clegg. A Labour-led alliance including the SNP and Liberal Democrats will number 340 (majority of 14). Though currently speculation, this is a potential scenario, which voters should seriously take into account on 7 May. Possibly a vote for the treacherous Lib Dems isn't so bad after all?
However, for Labour to successfully enter an alliance with these parties it will have to make serious concessions. The main area up for consideration is austerity. The SNP are campaigning on an anti-austerity platform, therefore it would be logical to assume that Labour will have to meaningfully compromise on the scale of austerity it will implement. Sturgeon's recent article in the Observer offers a challenge to Miliband to 'lock' Cameron out of Downing Street, but austerity aside, it is remarkably weak on any policy areas. Nevertheless, there is much scaremongering perpetuated by the Tory spin machine about the power the SNP may potentially have over Labour. Seeing as the SNP are politically left of Labour on many issues, the direction of a Labour-led alliance looks set to shift markedly to the left than it perhaps would have been with a Labour majority.
Some areas of likely agreement between the three parties are taxes on bankers' bonuses, a mansion tax, NHS funding, EU membership, scrapping the bedroom tax, house building programmes and scrapping Police and Crime Commissioners. The number of policy areas that the parties agree on is significant, lending weight to the notion that a Labour minority government is workable.
It would be naïve to assume that these parties aren't already drawing up their list of demands in the event of a hung parliament; ready for presentation once the results are in. However, are Labour strategists looking to the future on how to capitalise on any future alliance in the polls? Labour should take heed from Angela Merkel's leadership of the Groko (grand coalition) in Germany. Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) are regaining support in Germany at the expense of their coalition partners, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). This is because voters are unsure of the provenance of Groko's policies. If Labour takes credit for successful and popular policies, it will place itself in a strong position come May 2020 to win an outright majority.