Monday, April 26, 2010
The Coalition Game
Nick Clegg has seemed to rule out coalition with Labour in a hung parliament. I don't believe it. First off, according to Hugh Pemberton from Bristol University the options in a hung parliament are very flexible according to recent Cabinet Office guidance:
"In appointing a new Prime Minister, as at other points, the Monarch invites the person whom it appears is most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons to serve as Prime Minister and form or continue a government. It is for those involved in the political process – and in particular the parties represented in Parliament – to seek to determine and communicate clearly who that person should be"
According to this view the person who forms the government does not have to be a party leader. If Alan Johnson thinks he can bypass Gordon and his party agrees, the Queen might think he is the guy to invite. It is the incumbet government, (not necessarily PM) which gets the first shot at doing this piece of political creativity and the Cabinet Office which seeks to facilitate things, suggesting the officials concerned might have no little influence on what transpires from the possible post electioon confusion.
Clegg has said he doesn't want to negotiate with Brown if he has come third in the vote i.e. if he has 'lost' the election. This suggests Cameron might be the political swain advised to call a wooing. But as voting reform is bound to be Nick's preferred dowry I cannot see how this will work. The Tories know that if PR is introduced, they might well receive a fair return in seats for their votes but the two thirds of the electorate who vote left of centre will exclude the Tories from direct power indefinitely.
They will cling onto FPTP - their life really does depends on it. Moreover, as in 1974, I'm fairly sure the Lib Dem party would just refuse to ally with the Tories and Clegg knows this. If you doubt me, add EU to PR. Any suggestion by Cameron that he'll do a deal on electoral reform will be false promise, intended to be forever fudged. Clegg will know this. In the end Nick would do a deal with Labour as they could just about live with PR.
What they don't want is any more of Gordon Brown; nor, I fear, do the voters. I thought Clegg's interview with Sky News this morning was almost an invitation to Brown's potential successors-Johnson, Miliband et. al., to start discreet campaigning. I also thought Cameron's lambasting of Clegg was just a little too robust-he's got the tone wrong. He could find a more emollient tone would have helped win him a big slice of whatever power is available on 7th May.