Could the Conservative election expenses scandal bring down the government?
As we've all heard in the news recently, there is a lot of attention surrounding the election expenses of the Conservative Party in 24 of their marginal seats. These seats include Weaver Vale, Sherwood, Torbay, Thanet South and Nuneaton. The Electoral Commission has requested that the 1 year prosecution deadline be extended so that they can conduct a full investigation.
The worst case scenario for the government is that all 24 of these MPs are suspended and they lose the subsequent by-elections to the nearest opposition party which would result in the Conservatives losing power. No question there. Predicting the actual outcome of such by-elections is perhaps impossible. It would feel much more like a general election localised in a small number of constituencies.
A more interesting question is whether the opposition could win a vote of no confidence in the government whilst the 24 seats are vacant
. Would such a tactic work? Short answer: probably not. Let's look at the figures.
We look at the opposition likely to vote against the government in a vote of no confidence. I split these into those who would prefer a Labour government and those who would prefer another election but who do not necessarily support Labour.
Would prefer Labour to the Conservatives
Labour 230, assuming Ogmore and Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough go Labour in the upcoming by-elections
Plaid Cymru 3
Independents 2, formerly Labour (Simon Danczuk and Naz Shah)
Independents 2, formerly SNP
Would prefer another election to boost their numbers
Liberal Democrat 8
Total against government
Conservative 306 (after losing 24 MPs)
Total for government
Independent 1, Sylvia Hermon (MP for Down North)
Clearly even if Sylvia Hermon voted against the government then the government would survive by 316 to 305. Even if the UUP voted against as well then the government would survive by 314 to 307. Of course if the DUP also voted against the government then they would not survive.