Nate Silver Says UK Election Could Get ‘Messy’


American pollster and statistician Nate Silver has admitted he has “no idea” who will be in power after the general election. Appearing on BBC One’s Panorama show last night, Silver there was “enormous uncertainty” over the outcome of the UK election and that no party is anywhere near the 326 seats needed for a majority.

Silver, who rose to fame after predicting the outcome of the last two US presidential elections, said he expects the Conservatives to be the biggest single party in the House of Commons with 283 seats. Labour has 270, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) in third place with 48.

He also put UKIP on just one seat, saying that although its support is likely to be high, it will suffer under Britain’s electoral system: “Here’s the thing about a system that’s first past the post – you have to win a given geographic area. Parties like Ukip and Lib Dems, where their support is relatively even throughout the country, underperform their vote share.”

However, his prediction clashes with recent constituency polling that has put UKIP ahead in Clacton, South Thanet and Thurrock.

Although Ed Miliband may be able to form a minority government with the “consent” of the SNP, it would still be eight seats short of an absolute majority. Silver said it would be “an incredibly messy outcome.”

“I have no idea [who would form the next government]. You would have Tories as the largest party, but Labour plus SNP are more than Tories plus Lib Dems,” he said.

“Even then they are not a majority, they are not 325. Betting markets seem to think there would be more paz for Miliband in that case but that’s an incredibly messy outcome. There is still enormous uncertainty about who forms a government after May 7.”

He also questioned how stable a Labour government propped up by the SNP would be: “I guess I’m a little sceptical. This minority government will rely on the consent of SNP who are not well liked by voters in England. I just wonder how stable that arrangement really might be.”

Silver also said that Britain was undergoing a “quiet revolution” that will spell the end of two-party politics, possibly even making it hard for two parties to gain a majority:

“The quiet revolution that’s taking place here in Scotland and other parts of the UK where it’s no longer a two party system or even that close to a two party system. We are off the historical maths for what might happen after May 7. You might not only have no party with a majority, you might have no two parties that can form a majority.”