In an interview with The Times to mark his first anniversary as party leader, Sir Menzies Campbell said that the price of putting Gordon Brown in Number 10 would be a firm commitment to the introduction of proportional representation at Westminster. The success of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, where they secured proportional representation for local council elections, has made the party “more hard edged” about demanding its introduction for the rest of the country, he said.
“The party has moved. The party’s view is pretty clear about PR. If you look at Scotland, the Scottish Parliament, local government and European elections, they were all by proportional representation. The only one that isn’t is Westminster,” he said. The Liberal Democrat leader confirmed that he had asked Paul Burstow, his chief whip, to report on how coalition talks are conducted. “You would be very surprised if I wasn’t getting assistance from any source that I thought helpful,” he said. The report will examine the conventions surrounding coalition discussions, last used in February 1974. Sir Menzies attempted to play down the move, saying that it was part of wider election preparations, and insisted that he did not want the party to become distracted by theoretical discussions. “I am by no means convinced of the statistical probability of a hung Parliament,” he said. “I think the one thing you cannot campaign for is a hung Parliament, you have to campaign for your own policies and your own values.”
Now that he has discussed the subject once, the media can be forgiven if the question is repeated again and again. It's a legitimate subject for debate. The polls currently point to a Conservative victory, but I think a hung Parliament is by no means beyond the realm of possibility.
By even mentioning the possibility of a formal coalition, Sir Ming has opened a Pandora's Box.