Monday, May 10, 2010

10 May 2010: Debate

Update 2.12pm eastern: Conservatives making a "final offer" to the Lib Dems: a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) system, and William Hague says this (AV) was at the specific request of the Lib Dems. In other words, they said they wanted AV, not STV, which will disappoint a lot of Lib Dem fans who actually will feel betrayed by Nick Clegg at this point. And this move by the Conservatives to offer an AV referendum is surely all a response to Mr Brown resigning. Funny how they're all now negotiating by action in the media: who can make the most impressive gesture? It's like watching a TV documentary about weird animal mating rituals. AV, for those interested, means that instead of just a tick/cross by one name, you put numbers by (at least some of) the names, indicating your order of preference. If the candidate with most 1's by their name fails to get over 50% for that constituency, they add in the 2's. And so on.

So Gordon's going to step down as Labour leader, having lost the election. Not because it's the decent thing to do (although that would be the main reason if it wasn't for what the main reason is): no, it's because the Lib Dems appear to have clearly told him there's no way they're joining Labour in some kind of rainbow coalition (see previous post for the sums on who has to be involved) without him stepping aside. So off he goes.

Meantime LibCon hasn't happened yet, Lib Dems saying they need more clarification on specific issues, although frankly those talks seem to be going far better than I'd ever have thought. But now the Lib Dems have opened a dialogue with Labour too, which is a much easier ideological fit but a much harder mathematical one. And if it can somehow happen, it'll be Gordon going as soon as the Lib Dems (and lots of Labour folks) can brush him out the door, and leaving David "Steve" Miller Band as odds-on fave to take over. Meaning...

Meaning, for one thing, that if it happens then the Prime Minister will NOT be one of the three who got involved in the "unique, ground-breaking" televised debates. Kind of makes a mockery of it, really, although it shows people what the difference is between a Presidency and a Prime Ministership. Unless Nick Clegg somehow winds up as caretaker manager or something.

One thing I have noticed is people saying: "well, this is proof as to why we shouldn't have PR" - not sure that holds up. The problem isn't so much that negotiating a coalition is difficult or takes time, but that in this case there are two specific situations: 1. you have a very, very finely balanced mathematical equation: Tories plus DUP = 314, Labour plus Lib Dem = 315, although you can add the 3 SDLPs with no bother to the Labour number since they take the Labour whip; more importantly though - 2. the two parties that can form a stable, majority government are the two least likely to jump into bed together (Conservative and Lib Dem - even Cons and Labour might be a little closer these days because the Lib Dems are clearly left of Labour these days).

In a "normal" coalition situation you'd have various alignments and if voting totals were proportional to seats, this election would undoubtedly lead to a LibLab coalition with no need for nationalists: 52% of the vote, two parties that are relatively similar in policy and ideology, and there you go. PR and we wouldn't have this mess.

(Of course, there's PR and there's PR. Lib Dems want the STV version, Labour are talking about Alternative Vote, which isn't even PR, and there's a ton of other systems out there, all of which sit somewhere on the sliding scale between the result we got and the 52% LibLab coalition situation I just described. None of it is perfect, all of it will fail sometime and as Gareth says, you need to ensure local representation, although I think the Euro-election MEP thing isn't far off with that.)

Anyway, the pound has just dropped 1.5 cents against the dollar since Gordon's announcement, and frankly this Rainbow Coalition thing still seems totally fanciful to me - for no other reason than it cannot, cannot last, especially with Labour backbenchers' histories of dissent. Maybe Cleggy's bunch are just trying to put pressure on Cameron's team to make more concessions... but if they're not, if this is genuine, I can't see any realistic outcome other than another election pretty darn quick.

Better get registered to vote, everyone. And David Dimbleby better catch up on his sleep.

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