Here comes another coalition

Australia’s prime minister, Julia Gillard, fails to win an outright majority.

Not all the votes have been counted, but the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, has been forced to concede that neither her party, Labor, nor the opposition conservative coalition is likely to win the 76 seats necessary for an outright majority.

ABC Australia is forecasting 72 seats for Labor and 73 for the conservatives.

The opposition leader, Tony Abbott, described the result as a "savage swing" against the government. It is a big blow for Gillard, who has been prime minister for only two months after ousting Kevin Rudd. Her honeymoon period as a new leader did not last long. Gillard must now woo a handful of independent candidates to try to form a government. If successful, it will be Australia's first coalition government in 70 years.

Useful analysis can be found at the Sydney Morning Herald, which suggests that Labor will win the race to form a government. But the bookies have named the conservative coalition as the favourite.

The Sportingbet Australia chief executive, Michael Sullivan, said it was "hard to see how a Labor government relying on support from a Green and essentially conservative independents would ever reach a consensus and be able to function effectively".

So, Australia possibly faces a coalition consisting of wildly different ideological elements. Rings a bell . . .

Sophie Elmhirst is features editor of the New Statesman

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.