So after a few hours’s sleep, time to reflect on the irony that this most presidential of general elections has resulted in a slew of unpredictable local results, many based on individual candidates’ records, and will now be followed by at least 48 hours, and possibly much longer, of Parliamentary manoeuvring.
When all the talk is about horse-trading, it doesn’t seem like the best time to talk about the policy issues at stake, but if the Liberal Democrats are seriously thinking of allying with the Tories or, less likely, Labour, they will need some assurances about the policy line that is going to be pursued. Particularly on electoral reform, Europe and immigration, the Tories and Liberal Democrats are a long way apart. In particular, the “electoral reform” that the Conservatives propose is nothing more than a boundary re-alignment within the existing system, designed to make it more favourable for them. Since PR is a foundational belief for the Lib Dems, it’s hard to see Cameron getting anywhere with this.
And yet the alternative, an arrangement to keep Labour in power in return for electoral reform would look equally illegitimate given the voters’ clearly expressed opinions.
Tomorrow, we can expect the media and pressure groups to start screaming out their own views and pretending they’re the public’s.
Much of the press shouted and wailed about a hung parliament being a disaster – it’s a tough call for them now whether they present it as such (implicitly insulting their readers’ actions in voting how they did), or discover that it’s not so bad after all, long as the Lib Dems do what they’re damned well told. On the other side of the aisle, the campaign for electoral reform looks to step up the pressure, with a series of demonstrations for fair votes around the country.
Personally, I suspect that the best outcome for both the Tory press and the anti-Tory protestors is a Cameron minority government for six or nine months, and then a second election. The media get what they have been campaigning for, in the shape of a Cameron administration, albeit one without a clear mandate to take hard decisions. The protestors can avoid the taint of supporting an unpopular Prime Minister and take time on the opposition benches to refine a common reform programme to put to the voters next time, while keeping the pressure on the Conservative administration on the decisions it does take.
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