As the election approaches, is a Conservative minority government the most likely outcome?

The outcome of May's election is unclear (Source: Corbis)

Charles Lewington, managing director of Hanover Communications, says Yes

This is a numbers game. The polls are currently pointing to a dead heat between David Cameron and Ed Miliband, with roughly 270 seats for each of their parties. So the TV appearances are crucial. But Labour’s vote is soft – as is that of Ukip, which is currently slated to take many votes from the Tories and deprive them of seats.

On the assumption that at least a third of the Ukip “floaters” change their minds and return to the Tory fold on 7 May, the Conservatives could get upwards of 300 seats and most likely ask the Liberal Democrats to support them in a “confidence and supply” arrangement. It would be a shaky minority government, and might not last the full five years, but at least it would be a start.

I would be surprised if Cameron doesn’t use the debate he’s participating in to warn Ukippers that, if they don’t vote Tory, they will end up with Miliband – propped up by the Scottish Nationalists.

Adam McDonnell, a research executive at YouGov, says No

It’s a much less likely proposition that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will achieve a collective majority this time around than it was five years ago. Britain’s first past the post system generally favours Labour, and if the polls remain as they are, with the two main parties polling at about 34 per cent, the Conservatives will struggle to get the most seats on 7 May.

The Lib Dems have seen their national support collapse during this Parliament, and while many of their MPs will benefit from an incumbency effect, they are still likely to lose around half their seats. One scenario (not a prediction) is that the Conservatives and Labour both get 280 seats, Lib Dems 25 and SNP 35.

In this instance, a Con-Lib deal and a Lab-Lib deal would both be 21 short of a majority. If Labour invites the SNP to the table, however, a Lab-Lib-SNP deal, with a majority of 15, is possible – and arguably the most realistic outcome.

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