Monday, May 10, 2010

UK Labour/Lib-Dem coalition increasingly likely

Gordon Brown presented a timetable for his own departure from the stage today, acknowledging that whatever coalition or minority government emerges he won't be heading it - at least for very long. Labour has offered the Lib-Dems the adoption of alternate vote PR without any more consultation, study or even a referendum. The Tories in response offer to hold a referendum on PR, but note that they will campaign against it - while holding office.

Today Nick Clegg said:
Over the past four days we have been working flat-out to deliver an agreement that can provide stable government that can last. The talks with the Conservatives have been very constructive and I am grateful to David Cameron and his team for the effort they have put in. But so far we have been unable to agree a comprehensive partnership agreement for a full parliament.
We need a government that lasts, which is why we believe, in the light of the state of talks with the Conservative party, the only responsible thing to do is to open discussions with the Labour party to secure a stable partnership agreement. We will of course continue our discussions with the Conservative party to see if we can find a way to a full agreement.
Gordon Brown has taken a difficult personal decision in the national interest. And I think without prejudice to the talks that will now happen between Labour and the Liberal Democrats, Gordon Brown's decision is an important element which could help ensure a smooth transition to the stable government that everyone deserves.
Which can be read as a fairly broad hint that the pro-forma negotiations with the Tories are drawing to a close and the UK is heading for a Labour/Lib Dem coalition.

The only factor left that might make things come out differently is whether Labour calculates that government is a poisoned chalice with hard spending cut decisions looming on the near horizon and they'd be better off letting the Conservatives stick their hand in the meat-grinder and wait for the inevitable opportunities that will arise to topple an unstable Conservative government and swoop in to 'save the day'.

Labour held their losses to a lower number then most observers expected and may be thinking that with Gordon Brown out of the way a rematch in a year or so might come out differently.

UPDATE: Yup. Enough Labour MPs prefer going into opposition to making the necessary compromises to make a Labour/Lib Dem alliance work. On the plus side, Cameron, an already moderate Tory leader will be forced to hew closely to the center to keep the Lib Dems onside and in a year or two the Tories and Lib Dems will be stained by events while Labour will be waiting.

Even with an extremely unpopular leader, a public enraged by an expenses scandal and a left wing base still furious over Iraq, Labour held more seats then observers expected and after a dose of the Tories, the British public will remember why they loath them and Labour with a new leader will start looking good again. A coalition could have been good for both Labour and the Lib Dems and the Libs willingness to get into bed with the Tories will cost them a chunk of their base.

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