The results of UK’s General Elections were a forgone conclusion, but this long drawn out impasse might throw some strange bedfellows, reports James Landale from London
So what may David Cameron have in his goody bag to offer the Liberal Democrats? Well, they have some policies that cross over – both parties for example want a so-called pupils’ premium to support educationally deprived children.
But the Tory leader will have to tread carefully over any discussions about proportional representation (PR). Many Tory MPs would strongly oppose any deal that paves the way for PR. One possible option could be the promise of a referendum on PR, with the Tories reserving their right to oppose.
But even that would be step too far for some Tories. One told me, “The party offering PR has just come third in this election. Why should we agree to something the voters have rejected.” Some Tories might, however, tolerate fixed-term parliaments, another long-term aim of the Liberal Democrats. For now, Cameron’s aides are ruling nothing out and promising to be constructive.
If the Liberal Democrats and Tories do secure a deal, Brown would have to resign. He would know that in a few weeks he would not be able to command the confidence of the House of Commons. But if there is no deal, then the Liberal Democrats and Labour would talk.
Any Liberal Democrats-Labour deal would depend entirely on legitimacy. How could they sell a government to voters that would not be seen as a coalition of losers? They would argue that there is a majority opposed to the Tories and that they – as a coalition – have a mandate. But this would be a hard sell. As my taxi driver said this morning, “So the Tories got most votes and most seats. So why haven’t they won?”
The ultimate arithmetic will matter. But then the talks had already begun.
James Landale is the Deputy Political Editor for BBC News; By the time this article went to print, David Cameron had already formed a coalition with Nick Clegg
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