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A Lib/Con coalition is the only route. But….

By Angela Harbutt
May 7th, 2010 at 4:36 pm | 81 Comments | Posted in Election, UK Politics

After what was a very long night – and a couple of hours sleep – what’s the conclusion?

First it strikes me as somewhat amusing that all three party’s bloggers are disgruntled… Labour boys saying Brown’s got to go, the Tories asking how the hell did the Tories not win and that their strategists should go…and Liberals asking wtf happened to the so-called surge that left us with less seats than before. Lots of disgruntlement all round.

There will be a time and place to analyse the Lib Dem strategy and be in no doubt serious questions must be asked. But that is not for now. Now we have to ask what the Liberals do over the next 24/36 hours?

Nick did very well to make the statement when he did concerning the Tories. He looked decisive and in command. In reality he had no option but make that statement. A Lib/Lab coalition is not numerically possible unless it hoiks in all manner of smaller groups (all who seem to be demanding sack loads of cash for their support). A Lib/Con coalition does work numerically.And the Tories have more votes and more seats than any other party- though with only about a third (36%) of UK voters backing them, the Tories have no mandate to do anything.

Cameron recognises this – hence his expansive offer to the Liberals, an offer explained in some considerable detail (given the circumstances) on national TV,  on areas where he thought there was common ground – civil liberties (lets take him on face value for now), green issues, pupil premiums etc..Added to that John Major (who Cameron talks to a good deal we believe) has hinted that “seats in cabinet” might be on the table. What are we looking at 2/3 seats? Clegg/Laws/Cable ???? Probably.

On some issues he was less conciliatory. He disagrees with Liberals on Europe (though how many real decision have to be made in the next few years is questionable). He disagrees with Liberals on Trident (though this is down to cash and scales of resource and I guess not a deal breaker). The supposed differences on the timing of spending cuts are fewer than have been made out and immigration is unsortable by any party – so I am sure compromise can be found on all these issues.

On the issue of political reform Cameron has, however, put up a road block. His offer of an all party committee on political reform shouts of “kick this one into the long grass”…his suggestion that the Tory preference is a change to constituency boundaries shouts “kick this into very very long grass” .

He surely knows that this would be unacceptable to the Liberals – so is this just his opening offer – or does he really think he bully/face down Clegg on this issue? 

He is very wrong, if he thinks Clegg can roll over on PR.

Whilst a Lib/Con coalition looks like the ONLY way forward right now, Cameron & Clegg MUST find a deal on PR that they can both sell to their respective parties AND THE WIDER ELECTORATE.

At the moment, Liberals want PR now. Tories dont want PR at all….There is a solution here that both parties may find palatable. 

Agree to put the question of PR to the people in a referendum

Say – in the Autumn – with no whip involved. Tories can campaign against – and explain why. Liberals can campaign for. The will of the people decides.  

By now we all know about the Liberal “triple lock”  – Nick has to get any coalition deal through his party – and as we speak Labour high command are beavering away to make sure that a Lib/Con deal breaks down. Phonelines are hot as they call senior Liberal MPs and activists to put pressure on Nick NOT to do a Tory deal – using the “Tories wont give you PR , we will” line.  How do I know – I had a call from a “mate” from the other side asking me who in my opinion were the big guns on the Federal Executive (oh how I laughed).

So Cameron and Clegg need “to get real” fast. 

The Liberal parliamentary party (who must agree the deal) meet tomorrow (Saturday). The Liberal Federal Executive (who must also agree the deal) meet on Sunday. tick tock tick tock.

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