It appears some rather interesting things are going on in the corridors of power these days, well the darkened rooms with shuttered windows of power at least. Last Friday night I wrote a short piece about what I saw happening and, as usual, neglected to publish it. However, since the story seems to be developing very much in the direction I predicted I figured I ought to expand it and put it to your half interested eyes. Yeah, I know, I wouldn’t be writing any of this if it had gone the other way but in my defence I prophesied it to all I met over the weekend, so indulge me this once…
So the Liberal Democrats talk to the Tories about a possible coalition and everyone falls around in seeming disbelief that such a thing could happen, but of course it would, in fact it had to. A corner stone of Lib Dem policy for years has been that of electoral reform, with the aim of producing a Parliament that is more reflective of the proportion of votes cast for each party. They could hardly go on evangelising some form of proportional representation without at least being seen to consider handing power to the party that the largest number of people voted for.
However, I believe this to be a ruse done for the sole purpose of preventing them from being criticised during the electoral reform campaign soon to come. It is my belief that they will soon form an alliance with Labour, a minority government will be put in place for a short time, before having a referendum on changing our electoral system and calling another general election in short order.
The reason for this is simple, the Lib Dems have found themselves with a sliver of power, but the only way this generation of Wigs might do so again is if they gather up all their chips now and put them on one spin of the reform referendum wheel. It’s easy to see why, just look at the percentages of votes polled for each party and the number of seats that’s earned them. For example, Labour had 29% of total national votes and secured themselves 258 seats, in stark contrast the Lib Dems got 23% of total ballots but this gave them a meagre 57 seats. A 6% less votes but 201 fewer seats. Ouch!
Sure they could now go into government with the Conservatives, but what will that get them? Some agreements on Education, a select committee on electoral reform and cabinet seats in Culture, the Arts and probably the Olympics. The downsides would be a mass abandonment by anyone even slightly left of centre and sailing all their talk of change down the river.
Join up with Labour and things are much more comfortable. The two parties are much closer on many topics and the party faithful would find it much easier to stay on board. They certainly significant differences still, but Labour have already said they’d be open to a referendum on electoral reform and that’s the big win they’re looking for, a shot at changing the electoral system and possibly guaranteeing the party a share of power for generations to come. In this man’s opinion, that’s all they need, end of story. If it’s a decision between a scent of power now or the chance of having influence for the ages to come, there can be only one choice.
At present Mr Clegg is performing the very delicate manoeuvre of moving from one horse to another mid-race, that he may have planned to do this from the start makes it no easier now. The Tories wont let this go without a fight either, they’ll shout and cry foul all the way cause they actually thought they might win this time out. Clegg sending in a team to negotiate just made them believe it even more. As I type, it appears Brown has played his card now and in quite a timely fashion too. All that remains is for Lib Dems to suddenly discover an impasse in their talks with the Conservatives and the Labour party to suddenly find a youthful, bright and articulate leader (I’m lookin at you Miliband(s)).
Update: It appears the Tories have now offered a referendum on AV (Alternative Voting system) after the resignation of Brown. They must have seen this for the game-changer it is. A hearty “Well played” to the Liberals for getting possible electoral reform out of both leading parties now. Looks like that referendum’s happening no matter what now then…