Friday, May 07, 2010

What Next?

Many things remain unclear, but let's stick to what we know. We know that David Cameron has said he believes there should be a "strong governmment in the national interest". We also know that Nick Clegg has said that he would first talk to the party which has most seats and most votes. So that would be the Conservative Party.

So quite how Gordon Brown, who must be licking his wounds and opening tubes of superglue in his Downing Street lair, imagines he will be able to open negotiations with a party that doesn't want to speak to him is anyone's guess.

If the Tories have 306 seats and can entice the DUP into some sort of agreement, they could realistically govern without a coalition with the LibDems. I'd be quite happy for them to have a go at that, but it is clear that a second election would have to follow within a very short time.

These are the likely power blocks, which demonstrate that whichever way you cut it, Labour cannot form a majority coalition. There's no way the SNP and Plaid would be part of it.

LAB: 261
LD: 55
SDLP: 3
ALLIANCE: 1
IND UN: 1
Possible total: 321

CON: 306
DUP: 8
Possible total: 314

Non-aligned:
SNP + PC: 9
GREEN: 1

And the only way the Conservatives could do so is through a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Many Conservatives would recoil at that. I am not one of them. If it has to be, it has to be. Our economy cannot stand the uncertainty of a minority government in the long term.

I believe David Cameron and Nick Clegg have enough in common to be able to come to an agreement on many policy areas. I don't see electoral reform as an insuperable barrier. I also don't see Europe as the barrier which many LibDems probably imagine it to be, although I accept there are potential difficulties there.

But a formal coalition is only worth the candle if it is for the long term - four or five years. The LibDems need to be bound in.

But if I were David Cameron I wouldn't rush into anything. He doesn't need to. He knows he holds the whip hand and so does Gordon Brown. I doubt anything will be resolved today.

The elephant in the room with regard to a second election is the fact that neither the LibDems nor Labour can afford one. Indeed, I doubt the Conservative coffers are very full either. So realpolitik may well play a role here as well as the practical consequences of the parliamentary arithmetic.

24 comments:

Duggers said...

Open invitation from Clegg to work with the Tories. This is going to be a long few days.

Jabba the Cat said...

Can't knock Clegg for the fact he is sticking to his pre election position regarding the right of the largest party to be able to have a go at forming a working government.

Thorpe said...

There are 4 Sinn Fein who won't take their seat, and Speaker with 3 Deputies who don't vote. So 326 becomes 322 for a majority.

Knife edge stuff! I'm dumping my UK shares today and going into US$ and gold.

pol-e-tics said...

Clegg seems a clever guy. He's stuck to his principle of largest party first. The alternative would make LibDems a minor partner to a rejected party. With the Tories he may reckon he can begin to oust Labour as an important party. In the public mind it's the Tories and LibDems who are the progessive parties. So going with the Tories fits Clegg's image better.
Just what Cameron will do in response is anyone's guess at the moment.

Jason said...

If I were David Cameron I would just play the long game and not negotiate with anybody. Let the Lib/Lab pact hobble on for another 6 months during which Brown will have to raise taxes and slash public spending during a difficult period and the pact will implode. A new general election will be called and the conservatives will mop up with an outright majority. Better to have a outright majority in 6 months than a coalition now.

Roger Thornhill said...

1. Do not underestimate Gordon Brown. He is stubborn and possesses the hide of a rhino, plus, we can suspect, a temper to prevent wise counsel in such times.

2. If you go into coalition with the LibDems you will almost certainly get Cable in some form or other. I do not believe Cable will have the resolve to stick to the sorts of remedial action this economy needs. Rather we shall see him attempt to adopt the "wise sage" hands off not me attitude when things get tough. He will be a Chocolate Teapot.

3. PR? Well, I would suspect that with a sprinkling of Red Boxes, the LibDem front bench will come a scampering, their sweaty hands eagerly outstretched.

4. A second election may be unavoidable. I do not care a monkeys that there is limited money - might make for a better contest, who knows.

Martin Wellbourne said...

Ragarding Jasons comment :- if the hunchback of Downing Street hobbles on for another six months one way or another, I feel certain that he'll find some way to cook the books so that there's no cutting or clearly identifiable tax raising in sight. It will all be on the never-never somehow, waiting for the tories.

He is the Grandfather of the nation! The bountiful one! He gives that which we need! He only tells us nice things!

Unsworth said...

I just feel that there's no intellectual depth to Clegg or any of his LibDem colleagues. And I would not trust any of them. Huhne? Cable? Bloody hell!

Still, needs must.

Good thing that I sold all the shares two months ago....

Steve said...

It's either Lid Dems or the Ulster Unionists for your side Iain. As a disinterested Labour voter you will probably be better off with Clegg. The electorate will not quickly forgive the ring-fencing of bits of territory from cuts.

Simon Gardner said...

Lets not forget, Tories make a LD or Lab Speaker and my MP John Bercow suddenly becomes a slightly odiferous extra MP for Cameron. Whatever Mrs Bercow says.

David said...

As I read your previous post Iain, you were suggesting that there was no way that the LibDems would get only 59 seats, as predicted by the exit poll. So, surely you're honour-bound to do your jogging if they get no more than 59! They're currently on 52...

copydude said...

Iain wrote:

The elephant in the room with regard to a second election is the fact that neither the LibDems nor Labour can afford one.

Wouldn't mind knowing who bankrolled the bankrupt Labour party this time around. Northern Rock?

javelin said...

I disagree a Con+UDP+SNP would be most stable. With an English Parliament toes would not be trodden on and there would be a Government of National Unity.

The SDP are holding a referendum anyway.

I would tell Clegg and Brown to sling their hooks.

M said...

Before they get carried away with euphoria Labour and Tories should be reminded that:-

Tories + Ulster Unionists can't form a majority coalition.

Labour + LibDems + SDLP can't form a majority coalition.

The 9 seats held by the SNP and Plaid Cymru are the ones that will make the crucial difference on who forms the UK government and what legislation and budgets that will get passed by the Westminster parliament.

There is still very much everything to play for the Nationalist parties.

tory boys never grow up said...

All this clearly demonstrates that you want the Tories to act in what you believe are the interests of the Tory Party rather than the nation. How can it be in the national interest to do a deal with the DUP which will involve crossing their palms with silver - they have made it clear that this is what they want in return for their votes.

I suspect very few people in the nation want to go through another general election in a very short time - and I suspect that they don't want to see one where 2 of the main parties do not have sufficient financial resources where they are unable to put their case. You on the other hand would be be quite happy to buy such an election.

Nick Clegg has quite rightly, as he promised he would, given David Cameron the first opportunity to put forward a deal in the national interests - and if he is unable to do so I daresay he will then offer Gordon Brown the opportunity to do so. Hopefully Cameron will not be taking advice from party zealots such as Mr Dale on this matter.

In the meantime Gordon Brown is constitutionally quite correct to stay as Prime Minister for the very short period until it becomes clear what is the way forward - otherwise there is the danger that we could have 2 changes of Prime Minister in very short order. However, it is pretty clear to me that the Labour Party is considerably more popular than its leader at present - and that his legitimacy as my Party leader has now gone and that we need an elction for a new leader in pretty short order.

PS Iain you may need to postpone your naked run down Whitehall for a few days as it looks as they will be pretty busy. Could I suggest that you do it for charity!

Botogol said...

I don't see why a tory minority govt shouldn't last for years. the LDs aren't going to force an election for the foreseeable future and on any confidence motion they will abstain. DC can go it alone.

Simon Gardner said...

Ha I was right!

Buckingham: Mr Speaker Bercow first on 22,860; Former MEP and big-spender John Stevens 2nd on 10,331; and test-pilot Nigel Farage a humiliating 3rd on 8,410.

Up yours UKIP.

JoeF said...

To take leaders at their word

Brown refuses to accept he has lost, so needs to be driven out by rampanging mob (well, something like that)

Cameron/Clegg- priority is to save country, not petty party interests. So how about going with Lib-Dem idea of Council of Natl Stability (or whatever)- all chancellors together (if Labour doesn't want to join, thats fine) to decide on cuts/ tax rises. Actually not a bad idea in a national emergency.

Then side issues can also be addressed- personally definitely see need for English votes for english laws (favours Con), reducing number of MPs and aligning constituency sizes (favours Con), some PR somewhere- how about House of Lords changing to say Senate, elected by PR on rolling terms (e.g. 6 year terms with 1/3 up every 2 years?)- wojuld favour LDs.

Social policies- sure one could find several where both parties would agree (e.g. end ID cards, push more power down to local authorities and communities, etc)

Frankly all the promises of more money for this and that is all nonsense from all parties- there is no money for anything.

Lola said...

I am going to make some new bumper stickers. "Second Election Now' (Styled like the 'second front now!" ones from ww2.)

Goodwin said...

Jason, too late. Dave's already got his trousers down.

neil craig said...

I think Iain is wise to say the LDs should be bound into a deal for the long term in exchange for PR. That means coalition. Tories may not like the idea of sharing power but (A) Clegg is an Orange Booker, not necessarily personally to the left of Cameronm (B) yjr Comservatibes really need some way to share the blame for the coming cuts & (C) it will be very much in the national interest that any government making cuts & "taking on the unions" in government has a stong base representing 59% of the electorate rather than 36%.

Mirtha Tidville said...

I dont think Dave has any problems working with Clegg and the Dim Lubs....he shares most of their views and policies doesnt he...

neil craig said...

LudDims in the coalition also means that somebody can credibly be Scottish Secretary.

Adrian said...

So far I've found 10 seat where UKIP potentially deprived the Tories of victory: http://ukelect.wordpress.com/2010/05/08/the-ukip-effect-may-2010-edition/

Cameron continues to ignore this problem. Seems to me he has a choice between 2 referendums: a referendum on PR in order to get the LibDems to support his government, or a referendum on Europe to kick UKIP into touch. If he did the latter, chances are he could win a new election in the autumn. Of course, it would also help if the boundary commission redrew the boundaries; a review is now due but I can't see that being ready so soon!