The Ayes to the Right?

House of Commons: MPs debate 2013 Queen's Speech
House of Commons: MPs debate 2013 Queen's Speech by UK Parliament, on Flickr.
In the House of Commons, the MPs supporting the government are sitting to the right of the Speaker, while the opposition MPs are sitting on the left (TV footage is often shown from the other end of the chamber, obscuring the use of right and left here). For instance, in the 2010-15 Parliament, the Tories and their Liberal Democrat bedfellows were sitting on the right, while Labour, the SNP and all other parties were sitting on the other side.

The consequence of this seating arrangement has so far been been that the MPs on the right have been somewhat more numerous than the ones on the left, and in most cases one would expect the Ayes to the Right to win all votes (except for rare rebellions).

However, what will happen if the current opinion polls turn out to be correct, so that the Tories remain the largest party, but Labour forms a minority government with ad hoc support from SNP, the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and other parties (i.e., without any formal confidence and supply deal)?

Will Labour be sitting alone on the right (~275 seats), while the left-hand side of the chamber will have to accommodate the largest party of the Commons, as well as the SNP, the Lib Dems, PC and all other parties (~375 seats)? Or will all the parties supporting the government in confidence votes be sitting with it?

It seems likely that Westminster’s adversarial layout will suddenly be quite impractical. Is there any possibility that the seats could be moved into a more normal semicircle within the next few weeks?

4 thoughts on “The Ayes to the Right?”

  1. Doesn’t Westminster Palace need massively expensive repairs? Wouldn’t now be a good time to move out to another location and close it all up up until the national debt can be paid down. Surely if the country has to go through austerity, parliament should lead the way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *