For Canadians, debates between the leaders of the major parties is a routine thing (some observers/commentators are even of the opinion it’s a rather flawed tool when it comes to debating major issues).
For the UK however, party leader debates are a novel thing. This is the first time there has been a direct party leader debate format over there, and it appears that the Liberal Democrats and their leader Nick Clegg have benefited big-time from performing well at the format. Two new polls today (H/t to Taylor Owen at his Twitter page for drawing attention to the 2 polls) show that the Liberal Dems have made a huge jump in popular support.
Nick Clegg – boosted by a convincing victory in Thursday’s showdown – saw his party leap eight points to 30 per cent…The sensational YouGov poll for The Sun had David Cameron’s Tories still in the lead on 33 per cent. But Gordon Brown’s ailing Labour Party was in disarray, relegated to a dismal 28 per cent.
Both polls show the centrist Liberal Democrats taking away support from the right-of-center Conservatives, and left-of-centre Labour Party. Even with this surge however, the UK’s voting demographics are apparently such that even with these impressive #’s, the BBC’s seat calculator and swing calculator expert still believe the Lib Dems would only garner between 74-100 seats (though they don’t seem to take into account 3 way swings).
(UPDATE: A 3rd poll for the Sunday Mirror shows the Liberal Dems in 2nd place, only 2% behind the Tories, 31-29, with Labour in 3rd place at 27%)
That said, if these #’s hold, there are almost certainly would be a “hung” Parliament, or as we call it a minority government. I’d also predict that if these numbers hold, and Labour were to actually win a plurality of seats in the House of Commons, despite finishing in 3rd place in popular vote (as the seat calculator seems to suggest), I think you’ll see a public clamour that a voting reforms package (such as what Labour and their leader, Prime Minister Brown has promised to introduce) will need to be implemented, and I’m sure the Liberal Dems will almost certainly make that a demand or pre-condition to supporting either of the 2 big parties in the House – either in a classic Canadian minority government scenario, or in a coalition government.
UPDATE: This is also a pretty neat site the UK polling report, which also lists the UK polls and also has a swing/seat calculator at their site. The problem with predicting the “swings in votes” is that both sites assume “uniform swings”, and that may not occur if for example the Liberal Dems bleed support from both parties. However, it’s pretty hard to predict that, so I think the sites have no choice but to do 2 way party swings and uniform swing calculations.
UPDATE 2: I’ve seen reports from online British forums that Skynews is reporting a new Sunday Mail poll showing the Liberal Dems in THE LEAD at 32%, with the Tories at 31, and Labor trailing at 28, which if you believe the swing calculators would result in LABOR having the most seats in a hung Parliament at 285, the Tories at 215, and the Liberal Dems at 118. For those of us who complain about Canada’s electoral system, THAT would be a screwy result, and definitely would show an electoral system not working.
UPDATE 3 @ 2:50 pm: Here is the link to that Sunday Mail Poll at Uk Polling Report showing the Liberal Dems in the lead, and reports of an even more stunning poll, still to be confirmed for sampling methodology:
There is also a OnePoll survey in the People, that shows CON 27%, LAB 23%, LDEM 33%