We need to cut sharply through the wall-to-wall analysis surrounding the UK hung parliament; especially where the possible Conservative/Liberal Democrat “coalition” is concerned. Nick Clegg had already set in stone his position for the future, whether he knew it or not, with his remark that the person (or party) with the largest majority or number of seats having the right to ‘seek to form a government’.
It’s hard to tell what he was actually hoping for because the exit poll on Thursday night drastically contradicted anything the run-up polls had predicted – especially for the Liberal Democrats. There seemed to have been this idea for the Lib Dems that they were now the second party and if hung parliament meant anything for them, it meant a sort of jagged three-way split where all the parties, having nothing like a majority would have to form the sort of government you see in the Netherlands or Germany. The Labour party was punished by its previous support this time, but not punished as much as all that – still pulling in 4 times as many seats as the Lib Dems. The runaway success of the conservative party was also a damp squib, despite the repetition that it was the ‘biggest gain since 1931’.
The news-media has spent the whole of Friday referring to Clegg as ‘The Kingmaker’, now that the two major parties are scrabbling to get the extra numbers to make a government. The outcome has created a situation where Clegg is now forced to act upon his ‘honest’ remark. He now has to talk to a Cameron and a conservative party who clearly have no agreement with the Lib Dems’ four key policy areas. The immigrant amnesty is anathema to the conservatives, as is the income tax exemption for the first £10,000; the other big obstacle is electoral reform.
Cameron’s afternoon speech at the gentleman’s club spelled out, in no uncertain terms, that they have no interest in trashing the first-past-the-post system. It’s not going to happen under a Conservative government (likely not under a Labour majority either). Indeed on the 26th of April Cameron stated:
“I don’t want to change our electoral system; I think it works for Britain,”
“I support our electoral system and I think it is the decisive way of changing government; a government that can get things done and achieve real change.”
Not really words of change, but then he was convinced of a majority. So in essence they have had to resort to the tactic of wooing the Lib Dems with ideas about power. Possible cabinet positions for a party with less that 60 seats; something which in itself makes a mockery of the high moral tone about who has the right to sit in government. How right is it for a third-place party with a fraction of the vote to be dictating terms and getting appointed to cabinet positions?
Throughout the day there has been a schoolyard game where senior Tories and unknown faces from the second chamber are like enemies-turned-best-buddies. Kenneth Clarke pretending that he’s almost a Lib Dem with Tory icing on top. Perhaps in truth all the moralising from Clegg about honesty and what is right, will see him installed as deputy PM for being a good boy and Vince Cable in the treasury.
Here’s hoping that some journalist will dare to ask him why it’s ok for a third place party to enter a coalition while a second-place party with a mere 45 seats less than the winner is declared ‘finished’?
Who said ideology is dead?