Only one in five chance of coalition lasting full term

Sainsbury Visual Art Centre at the University of East Anglia Image copyright BBC elvis
Image caption Can the coalition government survive a full term?

Will the next general election really be on 7 May 2015?

According to new research by the University of East Anglia the chances are that it will held much earlier.

Dr Chris Hanretty from the University of East Anglia's School of Political Studies has studied the experiences of hundreds of other coalition governments worldwide and concluded that, statistically, our present government has only a one in five chance of making it to the full five years, and one in three if the Fixed Term Parliaments Bill is passed.

He has reached this conclusion by developing a political model which analysed 479 different elections in 35 countries.

Complex model

"It's built on the experience of many parliamentary democracies and they have a lot more experience of coalition government than we do, and from that experience we can work backwards and say what predicts how long coalition governments will last," said Dr Hanretty.

His model assigns values to various aspects of government related to its composition, the degree of opposition influence and the way cabinet decisions are taken.

"The size of the government's majority is obviously important, so too is the number of parties in the coalition, also how close those parties are on the left/right dimension.

"If they're far apart we'd expect the coalition to collapse earlier," says Dr Hanretty.

Odds slight

Image copyright BBC elvis
Image caption The study's statistics are worrying for the coalition's survival

His conclusions confirm what most of us suspected: that a Conservative minority government would last no more than one year and eight months.

But the odds of the coalition going the full term are slight: "The model suggests that coalition government would last exactly four years until May 2014.

"If the new rules on dissolution (fixed term parliaments) come in it would probably last four or five months longer."

Coalition collapse?

This is, of course, all theoretical and Dr Hanretty accepts that some things can't be modelled - like the decision to front load spending cuts and the fact that both Nick Clegg and David Cameron have staked a lot of political capital on the parliament going the full term.

"You can quibble with the usefulness of the exercise but I think this is a model that's fairly credible.

"Having said that I'm not going to go out tomorrow and place money on the coalition collapsing in a certain space of time."

He will present his findings at a conference in London which has been organised by the University of East Anglia to analyse the first year of coalition government.

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