The biggest obstacle to a Tory majority

Even after the boundary changes, the Tories will need a seven point lead for a majority.

Here's one fact that anyone interested in the outcome of the next election should permanently keep in mind. Even if the coalition's proposed boundary changes (now threatened by the Lib Dems) are implemented, the Tories will need a lead of seven points on a uniform swing to win a majority (compared with one of 11 points at present), while Labour will need a lead of just four. As things stand, the likeliest outcome of the next election is probably another hung parliament.

Myself and ConservativeHome's Paul Goodman noted these figures (calculated by YouGov's Anthony Wells) when they were published last month, but they've yet to appear in a national newspaper. As a result, there is still a casual assumption among most commentators that the boundary changes will all but ensure a Tory majority at the next election.

The reason Labour retain their electoral advantage is that the electoral bias towards the party owes more to differential turnout (fewer people tend to vote in Labour constituencies) and regional factors (the Tory vote is poorly distributed) than it does to unequal constituencies (the coalition plans to fix constituency sizes at around 76,000 voters).

Thus, the biggest obstacle to a Tory majority at the next election may not be the NHS or the economy but the British electoral system itself.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The NS Podcast #112: Going Underground

Are women-only carriages the way forward?

This week, we explain why we're backing Tessa Jowell as Labour's candidate for London mayor, talk women-only carriages on the tube, and speak to Tom Shone about Woody Allen. (Caroline Crampton, Barbara Speed, John Elledge, Stephen Bush, George Eaton).

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