Friday, 7 May 2010

...there was BNP in Barking, which is one good thing and no surge in terms of seats for the LibDems though they did take Charles Clarke's seat in Norwich. Personally I was pretty exhausted last night and simply kept the radio on, waking every so often to hear a snatch of the election programme. I had to perform something of a dash yesterday to the very new Poetry Book Society HQ in High Holborn where the floors are parqueted but sticky, not having been properly prepared by the landlord, as a result of which the place is full of boxes waiting for carpet squares and furniture. You stand still and you can't move because your feet are stuck to the floor.

In the case of the elections, you queue for three hours with your feet stuck to the floor, and once you get there the polling booth is shut.

There are still a lot of results to come in but the position is fairly clear: it is the much-expected hung parliament with the Tories easily the biggest party but without an absolute majority. So now for the negotiations. If I were David Cameron I wouldn't fight too hard to try to form the next, almost certainly short-lived, government. Whatever the new government do is bound to be painful and whenever the next election needs to be called the country is likely to say Let's get rid of the Nasty Party who are just as nasty as ever and bring back Labour under whom we did at least have some good times and who would try to preserve as much social fabric as possible.

A deal with Cameron would also be very bad for Clegg and the LibDems, because they would have got into the wrong bed and lost their chance of electoral reform and, after all, why get into bed with people with whom you deeply disagree in principle. There's a word for that.

With Labour, on the other hand, the LibDems might get their PR before the weak Lib-Lab government was voted out next time, which would be pretty shortly. What's more, I think people would understand them preferring Labour as bedfellows. Clegg would be likely to gain something, possibly something vital. Nor are the two parties ideologically so different now. Before the election Clegg had to establish clear water between his party and Labour, otherwise people might ask themselves why they should bother to vote LibDem at all?

But now it's over, the LibDems might find Labour the better course. True, they would be seen to have propped up a heavily defeated government, led by the same unpopular leader, Gordon Brown, but the strategy would, at least, be reasonably honest and clear, and, possibly, understood by the electorate, who are certainly not committed to Tory rule. Clegg could lie back and think of England, hoping that England, in turn, might think of him - as they'd have to after PR.

As for Labour (my wasted vote) I wouldn't be in such a hurry to form the next government for reasons above. The party would be perceived as clinging on to power by any means. And what to do with Gordon? Could Labour drop him while in much-weakened power and replace him with someone else in time for the next parliament, thereby offering the electorate another unelected leader? I doubt it.

If they did broker a deal with the LibDems they could then gamble and keep Gordon, because, either he helps pull the country through with a year, or, much more likely, he doesn't - not in the time available - in which case he acts as lightning rod for public anger. Then, having lost, the new leader (a stopgap) either survives to compete at the elections to face the by-then upopular Tories the next time round, and come back much stronger. There's not going to be any popular government in the next five years.

For Clegg the Labour deal is better, even with all its risks.

Having reasoned that out to my own bloated, unshaven, self-satisfaction I now expect precisely the opposite to happen.

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