[Copied and pasted from my external blog. Please do take a look. I'm trying to update regularly, every few days or so]
So Thursday's election didn't go too well. I don't think any of the parties were particularly satisfied with the outcome. I know I wasn't. But thinking on it, depending on how this is handled, Labour (and, in my opinion, the country) could actually come out of this in a good position.
Allow me to elaborate. Labour is beaten. The acceptance of that is paramount, and indeed I believe even Gordon Brown has accepted it. For all the Tory press might be moaning about him still being in Number 10, the Tories (though they almost certainly will) cannot yet form a government. It would irresponsible for Mr Brown, a man to whom duty is very important, to leave the country without a government. So, the most likely options are that the Tories will go into coalition with the Lib Dems, or form a minority government. Neither will be overwhelmingly stable, and particularly given the difficulty of the massive cuts the Tories intend to force through, they won't be popular. Which will make their government more unstable, and more likely to collapse. If a Labour government can reposition itself as a strong opposition party, opposing the dramatic damage that a Conservative government would do to our economy, Labour could sweep them aside in the resulting election. Potentially.
But the man who I really feel sorry for at the moment is Mr Nicholas Clegg. He's not having a good time of it at the moment. After being the star of the election campaign, his surge of votes failed to materialised. Still, the result was a hung parliament, which has been the Lib Dem's wet dream for a long, long time. And now it's turning into a nightmare for him.
From his perspective, he either supports Labour, or the Conservatives. He's already voiced his concern at the legitimacy of propping up a Labour government which to all intents and purposes, lost the election. He's also already said that the Tories should have first shot at forming a government. So far, so good. But since he's effectively the kingmaker, he has to choose one. And as a Lib Dem, there are certain things he wants, including: voting reform; reform of the House of Lords; greater integration with the EU; and the dismantling of Trident. And he'll get precisely none of those from David Cameron. Regardless of how DC feels personally on the issue, his party is completely opposed to all of those things. So how does Clegg make a deal? Presumably something is being hammered out behind closed doors, but I'm really not sure what.
And then, there is the fact that the vast majority of people who did vote for the Lib Dems did not do so because they agreed with the Tory policies. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are not the same party. They are not on the same side of the political battle-lines. Realistically, they are closer to Labour, and in a deal with Labour would get at least two (possibly three) things on Clegg's policy wish list. If he makes a deal with Cameron, to put Cameron in Number 10, he will be going against the wishes of a large portion (if not all) of his voters. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how to make sure that you don't see power again any time soon. If you go against the clear wishes of your party and your voters, you may as well put the gun to your head and pull the trigger. You'll be about as useful as a politician that way.
Clegg owes the Conservative voters nothing. You don't elect a politician of one party, to serve the interests of another. If Clegg trades his policies for a minor seat at the Conservative cabinet table, he's a fool. The consequences would outweigh the benefits (with the possible exception of if he could get George Osborne's seat for Vince Cable, and take that clueless muppet out of government completely, before he can even think about implementing a flat tax rate).
What Clegg does will depend on how smart he actually is. If he's particularly thick, he'll enter into a coalition with the Tories, and the dream of three party politics will be over for another century or so. If he's less thick, he might enter a coalition with Labour, and hope it holds up long enough for the positive effects of economic recovery to be noticed despite Murdoch's screeching. If he's particularly smart, he'll give the Tories a minority government, wait for it to collapse, and then wait for the surge of anti-conservative feeling to carry the Lib Dems along with Labour into a new era of two-party politics, and the Tories can take up the Lib Dem's former non-entity status.
But at this point, we just have to wait and see.
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