Last Thursday’s election did not offer what many would have been hoping for; not a majority government, but the end of campaigning and blanket coverage. Every plausible permutation has been offered, analysed and subsequently rubbished (depending what news outlets you watch or read) and it is quite likely that any goodwill left among the electorate for politicians may disintegrate in the coming days and weeks as the political intrigue makes a grand return and the auction to form a government or more accurately, to appease the Liberal Democrats, becomes public.
At time of writing, the Liberal Democrat negotiators and their leader Nick Clegg are in formal talks with both the Conservatives and Labour over a potential coalition. The incumbent PM Gordon Brown has announced he will stand down as leader of Labour seemingly removing the blockade built by Nick Clegg and the Conservatives have offered the Alternative Voting (AV) system. Lines in the sand may well be redrawn as each of the two parties court Nick Clegg and his Liberal party. However it is perhaps the case that regardless of the composition of the next government, Nick Clegg will lose out regardless; firstly he and his party may see the support afforded to them in the campaign (but not in the election itself) usurped by frustration if they are seen to hold out too long for electoral reform if this is flies in the face of economic growth or progress. Moreover, the party themselves will face stiff opposition from large sections of the electorate should they either join with Labour or Conservatives.
Propping up what seems like a jaded, flabby government whilst excluding the most popular of the three options. However forming an alliance with the Conservatives for electoral reform may relegate their potential for further influence in the current parliament at least, as well as also alienating many of their supporters for aligning themselves with a party diametrically opposed to their ideology.
The potential for a ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘coalition of losers’ seems slight, although less so each day; it is perhaps most likely a tactic to squeeze the Conservatives. Excluding the Conservatives would hand them the next General Election, particularly with savage cuts being the job of this government. The presence of Plaid Cymru and more dangerously, the SNP as partners in the alliance would further alienate the English voters as both champion the defence of their country in budget cuts – elections for Holyrood to be held in 2011 it should be noted.
Although the Liberals will most likely benefit in the long-term from a more proportional voting system, they will seem a party in transition in the current parliament with their leader perhaps returning to his pre-debate standing as ‘Cleggmania’ seems a distant memory. Indeed it is difficult to tell if the British polity is in a position any different to what was anticipated at the start of the campaign, the hyperbole of the parties and the media during the campaign has done little, if anything, to alter the inevitability of a hung parliament. The election campaign seems to continue…