Why can’t our national broadcaster get simple stuff right?


The BBC has been consistently speculating on who can put together a majority after May 7th using a misleading number: 326.

They get to this number of a ‘majority’ government/coalition/deal by simply dividing the number of MPs – 650 – by two, and adding 1 for a majority = 326.

But they must know this is simply wrong.

First, the Speaker, and his/her three deputies all don’t vote – the effective number of voting MPs is immediately reduced to 646, not 650.

Second, Sinn Fein MPs don’t even take their seats, much less vote and there are currently 5 of them and probably will be in the next Parliament. So the number of voting MPs is reduced to 641.

That means the real number of a voting majority is 321, not 326.

Please get it right Auntie Beeb.

[PS – ironically writing this quickly on an iPad led to some initial spelling snafu’s – but at least mine were unintentional – can’t believe the BBC don’t know their number is wrong so why are they doing it?]

11 thoughts on “Why can’t our national broadcaster get simple stuff right?

  1. By that logic, it should be 323.

    The Speaker is a Conservative, and by custom two deputy speakers will be Labour and one will be Tory. When such seats are won (e.g. say John Bercow retains his seat), the seats actually are reported as part of the party’s tally (in this example, Conservatives).

  2. Hi Prof

    Completely agree with what you say. I do have a question about the speaker and deputies. You say that these four don’t vote, which seems to be correct in most circumstances.

    But i saw something that states the speaker can vote in a dead heat. Seems that the speaker would vote for the status quo in such cases. I presume this is by custom rather than statute. Is this right? And what is the position of the three deputies? Do they follow the speaker in voting?

    I am voting in Scotland, so you will understand that single votes are of incredible interest here!

    1. Whoever is in the Chair can cast a vote in the event of a tie, but of course it depends on the nature of the motion under debate. Sometimes a tie would mean the resolution falls anyway, having failed to win a majority. The ‘Speakers’ not in the chair don’t vote either. In the event of a casting vote, yes, it should usually go to the status quo (if there is one).

  3. But government side will, presumably, contribute 2 MPs to the speakers team. So 323 MPs are needed for a voting majority, no?

  4. But, presumably, the government side needs to provide two of the speaker’s team. So in fact they need 323, no?

  5. Slight addendum: because of the way Deputy Speakers allocated Labour would need 322 and Tories 321 for voting majority (because current Speaker came from Tories – two from each)

    1. Sorry, Colin, I’m not following your maths. If the voting majority is 321, then Labour needs these 321, plus two for the speaker’s team – 323. Tories, 321 plus one – 322.

      Where am I going wrong?

  6. Sorry Andy you are correct – that’s what you get for posting after a couple of beers.I will have to ban myself from late night posting!

    Voting majority is 321 (641 = 321+320).

    Tories need to supply 1 MP to Speakers team, so they need 322-1=321.

    Lab need to supply 2 MPs to Speakers team, so they need 323-2=321

    That is of course also assuming they come from Lab and Tory. they don’t have to the way its worded, just opposite sides so if a Coalition they could from minor party/ies and same for opposition parties. But it’s unlikely much smaller parties would want to give up an MP if they could help it?

    1. I like the way that starts…

      And I don’t think that you need to assume that Speakers are necessarily Lab/Con. It doesn’t change the maths. Lab-led grouping needs 323; Con-led needs 322.

      Assuming that there is no early attempt to get rid of John Bercow…

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