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Labour still in play

Nick Robinson | 11:51 UK time, Monday, 10 May 2010

I can reveal that the Lib Dem negotiating team met over the weekend not just with the Tories but, in secret, with a team from Labour consisting of Peter Mandelson, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andrew Adonis. So far, I can get no official comment from either party about what was discussed.

Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown

Labour have not given up on the Lib Dems returning to them for a deal. However, if electoral reform is the stumbling block to any deal with the Tories, Gordon Brown is the block to any Lib/Lab deal. The solution being pushed by senior cabinet figures is for the prime minister to oversee the transition to a new coalition whilst announcing his intention,as Tony Blair did, to stand down by a specified future date. I am told that Gordon Brown would not allow himself to be a block to a deal but does want to see through both the handling of the current economic crisis and the delivery of a new political system.

Thus, it's increasingly clear that the Lib Dems face this choice:

• An arrangement with the Tories which does not deliver electoral reform but does produce a stable government committed to introducing some Lib Dem priorities. The fear many Lib Dems have is that they would be tainted by association with the Tories who could call a snap election at a moment's notice.

• A coalition with Labour with seats in cabinet, a pledge to change the voting system and a promise that Gordon brown will not be around for ever. The fear here is that they will be harmed by the allegation that they have created a "coalition of the losers" in an unstable coalition which could collapse long before it could deliver electoral reform.

Update 13:50: To add to Tory paranoia I now learn that they knew nothing about a face-to-face meeting held this morning between Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg.

David Cameron had his own meeting with the Lib Dem leader (at 11.45 lasting 45 mins) and was, I'm told, feeling pretty good about the progress of negotiations until learning that the Lib Dems appear to be pursuing two sets of negotiations at the same time.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    If the Lib Dems side with Labour it will appear that they have put personal interests above their promise to work with the party who won the most votes and seats.

    Which ever way the Lib Dems go they will be opposed by a section of their voters. Perhaps they have to decide if they will lose more seats in the South to the Tories or in the North to Labour.

    Considering that the Tories were only apparently 16,000 votes from victory maybe a Lib Dem/Lab pact which proves unstable and collapse could lead to a Tory majority in a follow-up election.

  • Comment number 3.

    I voted Lib Dem as a believer in proprtional representation.

    I don't belive the Lib Dems got a large enough share of the vote to be able to demand drastic concessions from the tories.

    I don't, for example, feel that the Lib Dems should have anybody in the new cabinet. The Tories won enough of the vote that they should, now, be allowed to implement their flagship policies without interference from the Lib Dems.

    But Nick Clegg has to give his party something otherwise they will simply not back his demands to back the Tories in parliamentary votes.

    All Cameron has to do is a give a commitment on voting reform within a two year time frame and I just don't see how the Libs can refuse.

  • Comment number 4.

    I would prefer the Lib/Lab coalition. Not for what it would or could deliver, but purely because it would have a shorter lifespan than a Lib/Con pact.

    Whatever way it goes, the LibDems are in for punishment at the next election.

  • Comment number 5.

    puddles @ 283 (previous blog entry)

    You say that ... no-one here seems to recall that the government did try to address this issue {devolved powers} with the planned referenda on Elected Regional English Assemblies in 2004 and that the no vote in the only referendum that went ahead (North East England) was so strong that they abandoned the plan.

    I suspect that the reason why this idea did not gain traction was because these Westmonster politicians were attempting to put the English regional horse before the English Parliament cart, consequently the people of NE England refused to participate.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nick

    so now you reveal that Clegg has been dealing with Mandelson behind Camerons back.

    Has this man got any principle he wouldn't abandon for PR.

    As Andrew Neil said "it is not very honorable".

    He is completely duplicitous as you have revealed.

    This is just a continuance of The Rotten Parliament not anything new.

    Call an election.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    I don't buy the "coalition of losers" argument, although I acknowldge that many Tories will feel that way. If electoral reform is flavour of the month, then 52 per cent of the popular vote beats 36 per cent.

  • Comment number 9.

    Gerry @ 281 on previous thread

    I think the big appeal of New Labour’s shift to the centre ground was to combine their traditional concern for social justice and public services with a conversion to free-market capitalism. As soon as the polls showed pre-97 that the public trusted Labour more than the Conservatives with running the economy, the result was in the bag. Critics will of course claim that they failed to deliver either on social justice and public services or on running the economy. I mention this only to spoil your fun.

    I don’t agree that there are vast swathes of the electorate who hanker after a more socialist agenda. They are just a vocal minority. So in that sense, talk of “reconnecting with Labour’s core vote” by shifting to the left is, in my opinion, misguided. I think supporters are a little tired of the party being run by a Metropolitan elite, but this is true of all parties, in fact. Cameron has been openly criticised in the past few days for relying too much on a coterie of close advisors, and grass roots Tories are not that keen on the “Notting Hill Set” – Ed Vaizey, Cameron, Osborne and a couple of others – who have taken over the party much as Mandelson, Brown and Blair took over Labour in the 90s.

    I agree that Milliband is the only current contender who might go down well with the electorate. Balls would be a disastrous choice, partly because he’s too close to Brown and partly because he’s unlikeable in his own right. But there could be somebody we don’t know about yet. How many people were aware of Cameron before he became leader?

  • Comment number 10.

    Nick

    I hope the Markets turn on Duplicitous Clegg as he is endangering our future all to get his electoral stitch up.

    Clegg as Mandelson's glove puppet here we come.

    This is what you get when you vote Lie Dem

  • Comment number 11.

    I really feel propping up a 'defeated' Labour would be more damaging to the Lib Dems than attempting to engage constructively with the Conservatives. I think the most likely outcome is a Conservative minority government and a further election in the autumn where hopefully we will get some kind of decisive government.

    I was hoping that 3 days after a general election we would have a government tackling the huge economic crisis and getting the country back on track rather than all this bartering and the uncertain future it brings with it.

    I also struggle in some ways to understand the constant criticism of our 'first past the post' system. I do recognise that it produces somewhat of a disparity between the number of votes and the number of MP's but what people need to realise is that you should be concentrating on what your candidates say and voting for them. In that sense FPTP is in no way undemocratic as the candidate with the most votes wins.

  • Comment number 12.

    If the economic situation is really as serious as it is being painted, has anybody thought about a three way coalition?

  • Comment number 13.

    The problem with option #2 is that we end up with another 'unelected' PM for the next X years (those leader's debates are only really relevant if they're between the leaders that you end up with).

  • Comment number 14.

    In the long term, the Lib Dems and in my view the Bitish electorate need electoral reform. Since Labour and Liberal policies are closer than Liberal and Conservative policies, the Lib / Lab policies were actually voted for by a mojority. Given that more people would have voted Lib Dem if we had a faiarer electoral system, Liberal and Labour are not losers, their moderate, Centre / Left policies are actually what the majority voted for.

    Please do bring us electoral reform so we can vote for waht they believe in and that way we wouldn't be in this position as the Lib Dems will do much better and people can leave the two old parties if they want to.

  • Comment number 15.

    It's reasonable for the LibDems to keep all their options open - I would have been surprised if they hadn't talked to Labour

    Is anyone certain that the Tories have said 'no' to political reform? You seem to imply that this is a fact - just that it hasn't been reported yet. I would be interested to know if this is in fact true or not

    I think a referendum followed by a free vote across all parties is the way forward with this issue

  • Comment number 16.

    Our new local Lib Dem MP, Julian Huppert, said on the Today programme this morning that an offer to deliver the main points of the LibDem manifesto but without PR would be very attractive and worth taking up, whereas another LibDem supporter later in the same programme said that seats in cabinet were irrelevant and PR was essential - no PR, no deal. If the Lib Dems can't agree among themselves, what hope is there for a lasting pact with either party? Moreover, much would hang on which system of PR might be put to the electorate, whether it would apply to the Commons and/or the Lords and so on. Labour is hardly likely to offer a referendum on a PR system that will disadvatage them. The PR issue is so complex that it seems absolutely right to set up a team to work out an agreed set of proposals to put to parliament and, in due course, the country, as David Cameron has offered, while getting on with the immediate task of addressing the financial crisis. Of the two offers I would have thought David Cameron's is easily the lesser of the two evils for the Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 17.


    All we need now is a message to Gordon from Robert Mugabe congratulating him on a resounding victory and this farce will be complete.

  • Comment number 18.

    If the Lib Dems do pick Labour, I trust they're quite prepared for the electorates backlash when they find that not we've not only got Brown for a while longer, but we'll then be foisted with another Labour PM appointed from within Westminster without the electorates consent.

    I doubt I'll be the only voter who'll be moving their vote from the Lib Dems in such a case, and given the next election would likely occur before a referendum on PR they'll find they've gambled on their existence for nothing.

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick,

    do you have the address of the Liberal Democratic party offices?

    I would like to know where to send the wreath if they do a deal with Labour.

  • Comment number 20.

    Surely the Conservatives could NOT call a snap election (though they'd probably be the only party who could afford to run a campaign) if the Lib-Dems required them to pass immediate legislation to create an irrevocably-set fixed-term parliament of, say, 2 or 3 years (even if only for this current parliament).
    That would lock all parties into a stable coalition.
    As for being 'tainted', they risk this by whichever government they join.

  • Comment number 21.

    The next government will have to deliver massive cuts in public spending and increased taxes. It is a poisoned chalice that all three parties should be glad to hand to someone else.
    The Liberal Democrats would be foolish to get sucked into responsibility for this austerity package but Cameron should be hoping they will do a deal with Labour.

  • Comment number 22.

    The Lib Dem's will be dammed if they do and damed if they don't. But if they do a deal with the Conservative without PR it will be the end of them. A lot of people who voted Lib Dem did so to try and keep the Tories out. They will never have a better chance again. They should go for getting Gordon to go and grab the golden prize.

  • Comment number 23.

    The meter is running on the taxi outside Downing Street...

  • Comment number 24.

    i think people are misinterpreting these "secret" lib-lab talks. i don't think they were kept secret from the conservatives, and i don't think the libs are discussing an alternative coalition arrangement with labour.

    i think the real issue is (a) getting a parallel agreement on constitutional reform that the tories will agree not to undermine (e.g. by calling an early election) even though they will oppose it, and (b) trying to bring labour in on a pact over "big issues" - primarily the budget deficit, but also care for the elderly and raising the retirement age.

  • Comment number 25.

    In secret, the lib cannot be trusted.

    GB wants to see the ecominic crisis through , that could take 20 years
    or so , it that what we want.

    Graham Stringer says that Labour will not deliver PR, on BBC R5 this morning, so PR will not happen under labour as it has not happened over the last 13 years.

  • Comment number 26.

    Need For Change!!! A Simple Fair Solution. Voting in the Commons so that each party's MP's vote is weighted according to their proportion of the popular vote. So if ALL the Conservative MPs voted their combined vote would be weighted to equal 36%, Labour 29% and Lib Dems 23%. Keeps local representation while representing the national will. Extreme parties such as BNP who do not win a single seat would be unrepresented unlike regular PR options.

  • Comment number 27.

    "The fear here is that they will be harmed by the allegation that they have created a "coalition of the losers" in an unstable coalition which could collapse long before it could deliver electoral reform."

    What you forget is that only a third of the country voted for the Tories!

  • Comment number 28.

    Nick

    So as you say the Lib Dem know they can't win a vote in the commons on PR as I have been saying but they want to circumvent the commons to bring it in.

    Clegg the great democrat don't make me Laugh.

    The commons doesn't even get a vote on changing our voting system that produces its MP's a Commons we the electorate voted for.

    You could not make it up.

    As was said how very Lib Dem. Hypocrites.

  • Comment number 29.

    A LibDem agreement with Labour and other parties would represent a disenfranchisement of the English voters- who are clear supporters of the Conservatives. With Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg talking about fairness, such an agreement could only be described as totally unfair- but would they be worried?

  • Comment number 30.

    To describe a Lib/Lab arrangement as a 'coalition of losers' would be to ignore the fact that the combined Lib/Lab vote from the electorate means that together they command more than 50% of the votes cast at the general election.

    In any potential future electoral system, based on PR, this 50%+ mandate in terms of percentage votes cast will be a much more important figure than that of the number of seats gained or lost.

    So, perhaps the spin will turn in this direction as a means to justify a Lib/Lab coalition, and, in reality, it does make more sense than a Tory administration which would only have been elected on 36% of the total vote.

  • Comment number 31.

    3. At 12:13pm on 10 May 2010, Osric wrote:

    I voted Lib Dem as a believer in proprtional representation.

    I don't belive the Lib Dems got a large enough share of the vote to be able to demand drastic concessions from the tories.

    I don't, for example, feel that the Lib Dems should have anybody in the new cabinet. The Tories won enough of the vote that they should, now, be allowed to implement their flagship policies without interference from the Lib Dems.

    But Nick Clegg has to give his party something otherwise they will simply not back his demands to back the Tories in parliamentary votes.

    All Cameron has to do is a give a commitment on voting reform within a two year time frame and I just don't see how the Libs can refuse.


    spot on. it's not about getting the Lib Dems into power, rather about getting a more accurate representation for the people in parliament.

  • Comment number 32.

    Nick Clegg has publicly stated his first port of call would be with the party of the highest number of seats in Parliament- the Tories.
    This is a true test for Clegg and the Lib Dems as to putting their proportional voting policy to the ultimate test. If this policy is adopted in any future elections this may well be the precise outcome of any such election. If the Liberals cannot negotiate with the party of most seats to create a stable functional government it will prove to the electorate that PR does not work and becomes a political fudge of which we the electorate are not used to and maybe will never accept should all this go belly up? The onus is clearly of Clegg and his Lib Dem colleagues, they have to bear in mind that they have a minority ratio of seats of almost 1-6 v the Tories.

  • Comment number 33.

    Osric, you don't seem to understand that PR would destroy the Conservative Party. They would become the third party for a generation or more.

  • Comment number 34.

    On Friday last Gordon Brown announced that he would wait to see if the Conservatives and Lib/Dems could finalised a deal, but if they couldn't he would be prepared to talk to the Lib/Dems then.

    Over the weekend there has been a secret meeting with Nick Clegg, and another secret meeting (yesterday) with the Lib/Dem negotiators.

    Nick Robinson's comment would indicated that Gordon Brown sees himself in power for a long time yet which is not what the country wants.

    Gordon Brown is not an honorable man if he cannot keep his word for more than five minutes. The sooner he goes the better for all concerned.

  • Comment number 35.

    Actually Nick, I think you've ignored one very significant factor - which is that whatever pledges Labour might give now about electoral reform, they can't actually deliver on it. This is because a significant minority of Labour MPs are implaccably opposed to PR and wouldn't vote for it. Remember that Blair promised them a referendum and then ratted on the deal and Labour promised electoral reform way back in 1931 - but couldn't deliver then either.

    Given that, the choice is a lot simpler for Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 36.

    On the "coalition of the losers" - this highlights why we need reform of the system so badly. When looking at 100% of the electorate, the Conservatives have 22% of the vote. This is hardly "winning". Even with the non-voters disregarded, whilst they took the highest percentage of the vote, they have no natural political allies other than the DUP. Therefore the majority of voters voted for a centre left or left wing party. A coalition of the progressive left better reflects the views of the electorate than the Conservatives do.

    On a Lib/Lab pact, I suggest that in addition to Mr Brown, Mr Darling and Mr Straw would have to go. Assuming that Alan Johnson would stand as leader, we would also see a change in the Home Office. Unless the coalition (should it come into being) demonstrate a meaningful change then it would not be credible. That means that the heads of the 3 main departments and the PM must change.

  • Comment number 37.

    Does Nick Robinson never sleep ?? (Or does he just have to avoid dayight hours!)

  • Comment number 38.

    So, with only 50 seats or so, LDs are the king makers.
    The 2 major parties should have none of it and get together to sort out the economic mess.
    They won't of course because just like the fat cat bonus earning directors they both want to be king.
    How about a Con/Lab agreement with GB as PM for 4 months, then DC, and an election fixed for Thursday 5th May 2011.
    It won't happen of course but we can dream.

  • Comment number 39.

    It seems ludicrous the the Liberal Democrats are insisting that a policy (proportional representation) 75% of the country chose NOT to vote for them on. Indeed how can a party champion electoral reform by forming a govenment that they know the public have not chosen. If we are to be governed by the two parties we actively didn't choose, at least let them drop the hypocrisy of demaning a "fairier electoral system". It seems once again politicians intent on furthering their own career will be ignoring he choice of the British public.

  • Comment number 40.

    A "Coalition of the Losers" might also be seen as a coalition of the Centre and Centre Left majority of the voters - not first past the post but the largest number of like minded people. But not the largest number by very much. Tory minority government might be the only way - with a joint commitment to broad consensus action on the deficit. Whatever happens, the Tories aren't going to be able to bring about a Thatcherite Programme of radical economic restructuring. Which is nice.

  • Comment number 41.

    The Lib/Dems are going to be stuffed - whatever they do. The Tories will have to administer a heavy dose of salts to the public sector to flush out the waste and they'll do it this year. Cue: unions up in arms and general mayhem. New election in 9 months and the Lib/Dems will be pulverized.

    Go with Labour and it will be an unholy alliance of all the losers - SNP wagging the Westminster dog is likely to drive the English majority voters mad - and it will be tip-toeing into next year before the cuts arrive (a little later and by which time we'll be even deeper in the mire). Cue: unions up in arms and general mayhem. New election in 18 months and Lib/Dems get pulverized.

    Their best bet is say no to both parties and let the Conservatives form a minority government.

    Meanwhile the country goes down the Swanee.

  • Comment number 42.

    As a Lib Dem supporter I hope option 2 happens. To be tainted by Tory policy can only be detrimental to the party and the chance of obtaining PR by joining a Labour coalition should be grasped by both hands.

    The idea that the coalition might not survive long enough for electoral reform shouldn't be a barrier for trying to make it work. There is a real chance here for change and I hope the Lib Dems, Labour, and the smaller parties take this chance. The last thing the UK needs is a destructive Conservative/Lib-Dem pact that will inevitably lead to discord and another election this year.

  • Comment number 43.

    How is a coalition based on 52% of the vote a "coalition of the losers"? All parties were "losers" in the election. The public said 'we don't fancy any of them on their own, thank you'. So a Con/LibDem coalition could also be called a "coalition of losers" too (with 58% of the vote. This kind of language does not help people form a stable government in the national interest. We need to grow up politically and realise that this is how coalitions are often formed all over the world in the interests of the people politicians serve. The people deserve better than this immature name-calling.

  • Comment number 44.

    Good detective work by Nick Robinson!

    Basically it looks as if the Lib-Dems are playing off one against the other so that they end up with the maximum possible concessions (from the Tories).

    Realistically Labour are a dead duck in England and the fairy-tale son-of-rainbow coalition is a non-starter for ten or any other number.

    Maenwhile back at the centre of the really serious action, the Eurocrats are facing up to the fact that they must get a coherent EU-wide fiscal policy in place asap to run alongside the monetary policy or else the EU will dissolve, which will be very bad news for us all.

  • Comment number 45.

    nick, i disagree with your post on two counts:

    "the Tories who could call a snap election at a moment's notice" - no they could not. cameron could approach the queen to dissolve parliament. but the queen does not have to acquiesce, especially if a lib-lab coalition is available instead. she would face quite a dilemma, but the precedent set by george v (when he replaced baldwin with macdonald in 1924) is not to dissolve parliament unnecessarily.

    "A coalition with Labour with seats in cabinet" - this is not a viable option, because the maths does not allow it. i doubt very much the lib dems are entertaining this option, except as a fallback to threaten the tories with so the tories are not incentivised to try to call early elections.

    there is a third option: support a tory minority government to tackle the deficit over the next two years (in return for concessions on some lib dem policies) because this is in the "national interest", AND put together a deal with labour and the minority parties on constitutional reform - a deal that cannot be blocked by the tories - in return for a promise to form a coalition pact at the next election in 2 years.

  • Comment number 46.

    The LibDems have a third choice - to spurn both the Tories AND Labour, instead they just sit tight.

    They can then cast their vote on an issue by issue basis in the HoC.

    Brown would be forced out, as Labour got fewer votes than the Conservatives.

    The Conservatives would have a mandate to properly govern. They will be able to achieve quite a lot, as the LibDems would pay a heavy price if they brought down the government too early, and/or over a relatively trivial piece of legislation.

    Having said that, I remember only too well Joe Clark, leader of the federal progressive conservatives (PCs) in Canada in 1979. He won a minority government in the 1979 election, but couldn't create a coalition with the only other party open to him, the Social Creditists in Quebec, so he decided he would govern without any sort of coalition. After 9 months, the PCs lost a vote of no confidence after introducung some necessary but unpopular legislation over the economy - they knew they would lose, but Clark gambled on the electorate being cross with the SoCreds, and would vote the PCs back in in the Feb 1980 election with a proper majority.

    That didn't happen - instead, the country voted the Liberals back in under Trudeau. That scenario is of course what Cameron faces today.

  • Comment number 47.

    If i was cameroon now, i'd say that the negotiations with the liberals will be put on hold until the outcome of the Lib/Lab negotiations...then libs will be truly shafted both ways come the next election.

  • Comment number 48.

    May 2010, Gerry Mandering wrote:
    "Recent remarks by David Cameron of deeper cuts in the regions has intensified the idea of seperation.A further division is the demographic class basis of the main political parties,with a concentration of finance and wealth in London and the South.The threat to punish the regions looks like naked class interest by the conservatives whatever its intention."
    Typical partisan chip on shoulder crap.
    Given that some of the "regions" such as Labour heartlands of the North East depend on public sector employment more than anything else, given that public sector spending is going to have to be trimmed which ever party/parties end up in control, its hardly bloody surprising is it bryhers, that the regions may bear some of the brunt. Of course, you could have left the public sector departments in London and the south east as well, but given that Labour didnt exactly attract a lot of private sector investment into the regions, despite peeing money up the wall on the regional development agencies, what do you expect?

    I think you will find that the public sector is bigger in the regions because of need.On all measures of life chances like income,employment,life expectancy,social mobility,and housing,Scotland,Wales,Northern Ireland and the Midlands are inferior to London and the South-East.

    Deeper cuts will have a greater effect on the social fabric in the regions,these issues are class related.To pretend you can deal with a Broken Society,or achieve a Great Society without recognizing this is simply prejudice.

    I don`t believe this is Cameron`s intentions,it would be a consequence of his policies.He presumes to govern Britain,then he must understand that the polarities of privelege and deprivation with which he has to deal are class based.





  • Comment number 49.

    Brown will promise Clegg ANYTHING to stay in power whether he can deliver it or not - I am just praying that Clegg realises this and can resist. Our Prime Minister is a disgrace - we must be the laughing stock of the political world.

  • Comment number 50.

    Nick

    Please can you see if we are in for £10bn to the Euro bail-out deal, or if this is a media rumour?

  • Comment number 51.

    It has been said that a Lib/Lab coalition will be a coalition of the losers; however, with the Lib Dem, Labour and the other smaller parties votes we are looking at representing 20 million voters; way in excess of a Lib Dem/ Conservative coalition. What is the problem with that in this time of National need?

  • Comment number 52.

    "Mark Braund wrote:
    I don't buy the "coalition of losers" argument, although I acknowldge that many Tories will feel that way. If electoral reform is flavour of the month, then 52 per cent of the popular vote beats 36 per cent."

    If we are playing the numbers game by my count a Lib-Con partnership would have more votes than a Lib-Lab-SNP-SDLP-Alliance-PC-Green etc.

    And that is before you add in votes for the Conservatives from their partners in NI and UKIP (which are pretty much the Tories Euro-septic wing - and no that isn't a typo!)

    The irony is that under PR the Tories would have a stronger base in the Labour heartlands (they got one seat in Scotland but their number of votes was only slightly lower than the SNP and Lib Dems)

  • Comment number 53.

    pd#

    "I think the big appeal of New Labour’s shift to the centre ground was to combine their traditional concern for social justice and public services with a conversion to free-market capitalism."

    Thats not you talking mate, thats the Blairite manifesto being parroted.


    "As soon as the polls showed pre-97 that the public trusted Labour more than the Conservatives with running the economy, the result was in the bag."

    What you didnt say is once the city had been courted by Brown and Mandy in an attempt not to scare the horses and to reassure them. But, the comment is largely true.


    "Critics will of course claim that they failed to deliver either on social justice and public services or on running the economy. I mention this only to spoil your fun."

    Indeed. Fun (kind of) duly spoiled.

    "I don’t agree that there are vast swathes of the electorate who hanker after a more socialist agenda. They are just a vocal minority. So in that sense, talk of “reconnecting with Labour’s core vote” by shifting to the left is, in my opinion, misguided."

    Hmm. So, what do they do? It sounds like they're caught between a rock and hard place...

    "I think supporters are a little tired of the party being run by a Metropolitan elite, but this is true of all parties, in fact. Cameron has been openly criticised in the past few days for relying too much on a coterie of close advisors, and grass roots Tories are not that keen on the “Notting Hill Set” – Ed Vaizey, Cameron, Osborne and a couple of others – who have taken over the party much as Mandelson, Brown and Blair took over Labour in the 90s."

    Yep. Fully accept that.

    "I agree that Milliband is the only current contender who might go down well with the electorate. Balls would be a disastrous choice, partly because he’s too close to Brown and partly because he’s unlikeable in his own right. But there could be somebody we don’t know about yet. How many people were aware of Cameron before he became leader?"

    Also true. I'd be intrigued to see who emerges, on either side. What price Frank Field, Boris, David Davies, maybe even the re-emergence of James Purnell? Did he stand down altogether, or has he still got his seat?

  • Comment number 54.

    It all begins to look rather shabby - I'm a craddle Liberal, and wouldn't consider voting for anyone else - but to the rest of the world this iffing and butting surely confirms the (untrue) impression of the Lib Dems as indecisivie.... oh dear. Nick's blowing it....

  • Comment number 55.

    Why all this talk about voting reform without taking into account the wider political need to resolve the make-up of the House of Lords (and does an upper elected house change the need for the Parliament Act?) and of course the issue of West Lothian question.
    Will we see a Lab/Lib/Nationalist pact (with the majority of MPs not being English) that will be setting what happens in England whilst the desolved governments set their own agenda? Can this be right? We need reform but not just reform to one part of the system.

  • Comment number 56.

    243. At 10:00am on 10 May 2010, Kevinb wrote (Previous blog(closed)):
    KM Bayes wrote "Unless the tories somehow make this work they will get a thorough spanking at the forthcoming re-run when Labour have a cuddly new leader in place."
    KB: "You can't cuddle a milipede"
    Of course you can cuddle a millipede - if you are a millipede. That's how we get more millipedes.
    Similarly you can cuddle a snake (remember all the snakes writhing together in Indiana Jones) - if you are a snake.
    Out-of-office will be a cold place for Labour MPs - lots of mutual cuddling needed.

  • Comment number 57.

    What is the use of bothering to go and vote if the person who has received the largest number of votes is not the Prime Minister regardless of an overall majority, he was voted the best of the bunch,by the majority of the electorate. When is Labour and Brown going to accept this, and if Clegg does a deal with Labour then he is going against what he said and so to me just shows the Liberal Party are not to be trusted if they cannot even abide by what was said at one of the debates about the person who receives the most votes should be the Prime Minister, if only temporally.

  • Comment number 58.

    24. At 12:25pm on 10 May 2010, benagyerek wrote:
    i think people are misinterpreting these "secret" lib-lab talks. i don't think they were kept secret from the conservatives, and i don't think the libs are discussing an alternative coalition arrangement with labour.

    =========================================================

    I beg to differ I have just seen Nick say that Cameron didn't know about the talks with Mandy on Saturday so they where behind his back.

    Watch the Daily Politics.

  • Comment number 59.

    "mightychewster wrote:

    I think a referendum followed by a free vote across all parties is the way forward with this issue"

    What would be interesting is if the MPs were offered a free vote on STV being put to a referendum - my guess is that the vote would be lost with both Labour and Tory MPs voting against it.

  • Comment number 60.

    If the LibDems seriously want voting reform, and I don't doubt that they do, then A) they must be prepared to enter a coalition, and B) surely they can't be impressed, or satisfied, by the disgraceful fudge that is brown Gordon's promise of AV.

    PR will almost inevitably rule out an overall majority party in the Commons ever again, so coalitions will be the future. If the LibDems can't reach agreement with what is clearly the strongest party, the Conservatives, then they can't justify PR. Coalition with a minor party like Labour just isn't going to work ... too many other parties needed for a workable majority, which can't last.

    AV would just create the illusion of majority support for MPs, but would do nothing to give value and purpose to votes for smaller parties.

  • Comment number 61.

    Er, why is it a certainty Tories won't be up for some kind of political reform? Might not be PR but AV Plus has been mentioned in some of the papers as a Tory poss, and could be more acceptable. Also there is more to just PR for House of Commons - there is also local gov and House of Lords to consider. Tories could offer a good deal of flex on some of these things.
    Either way anything has got to beat 'Coalition of the Biggest Losers' with the nationalists adding to the demands/chaos.

  • Comment number 62.

    Nick,

    Whatever the outcome - never under-estimate the ability of the conservative party (or the Lib-Dems for that matter) to stab themselves in the back!

    Tribalism is never far from the surface.

  • Comment number 63.

    "Dave Manchester wrote:

    I doubt I'll be the only voter who'll be moving their vote from the Lib Dems in such a case, and given the next election would likely occur before a referendum on PR they'll find they've gambled on their existence for nothing."

    You certainly won't be the only voter - I have voted Lib Dems on several occasions as I feel that they are the most principled of the main parties but if they are willing to trade their principles for PR then they would lose my vote.

    I support PR (and would like the STV voting system) but that was not the reason I voted for the Lib Dems.

  • Comment number 64.

    33. At 12:30pm on 10 May 2010, Nick wrote:
    Osric, you don't seem to understand that PR would destroy the Conservative Party. They would become the third party for a generation or more.


    This is pure fantasy

    In England 40% voted Conservative

    That can't be third. unless percentages are more than 100

    You and others fail to take into account the conservative votes that are currently not counting in Scotland, and those in safe labour seats

    It is by no means certain that the conservatives would be second, never mind third

  • Comment number 65.

    Dear Politicos
    Remember us ordinary people - AKA the electorate!
    A Blog - 'Shouting From The Centre: http://wp.me/pRHY4-O

  • Comment number 66.

    Some people vote Lib Dem to keep Labour Out

    Some people vote Lib Dem to keep Conservatives Out

    Nobody votes Lib Dem who realistically expect to ever take office

    The simple obvious is to ask Nick Clegg to form a Government - he will have to find policies that can command a majority of support in the House. No party should have the right to thrust all its policies down the throat of an electorate, the majority of whom have voted against them.

  • Comment number 67.

    27#

    Ho ho ho.

    Looking for a job in stand-up comedy once Charlie Whelan has no further need for your services?

    Dont give up the day job just yet, eh?

  • Comment number 68.

    Other than self interest, what reason can anyone give for opposing a referendum on PR? It is a matter for the British people to decide not political parties.

  • Comment number 69.

    As Lib Dems have made Proportional Representation a cornerstone of their election campaign, why not run an analysis of what the election outcome would have been if PR was currently in effect? Then let that be the key factor that sways the decision to go with Conservatives or Labour.

  • Comment number 70.

    Like many Labour supporters I defected to the Lib Dems this time around. However, a coalition of Libs and Tories would be a step too far for me and other left-of-centre voters.
    If Clegg and his ambitious no-hopers sign up with the Tories they (the Lib Dems) will NEVER get my vote again.
    Show some backbone, Nick. Strike a deal that lets Gordon stick around for while and gets the reforms you want - and the changes this county needs!

  • Comment number 71.

    The whole spectacle of secret deals with no reference either to the elected representatives or to the electorate simply highlights the weaknesses of a change to PR. There is clearly a need to revise the whole system and come up with something that ensures a reasonably strong government emerging from an election, not a mish-mash compromise of widely divergent policies. The immediate national interest is to address the frightening economic mess created by Gordon Brown despite the parliamentary system. Gordon Brown for all his cries of the national interest being served by him as PM are obviously an attempt to ignore his ignomious rejection by the electorate and to cling to his doctrinaire opinion that he is the only solution.. He only survives in office because the system was designed to protect a Prime Minister from being fired by anyone other than the electorate. This in itself cries out for not electoral reform but broad political reform but in a well considered and widely debated fashion not as a knee jerk reaction.

  • Comment number 72.

    WE DON'T WANT A TORY GOVERNMENT.

    PR will ensure that the Tories and the Tory press will be marginalised for ever.

    It is a no brainer.

  • Comment number 73.

    I don't think we should criticise Clegg for talking to Labour. (There are plenty of other things he can be criticised for, but that's not one of them).

    Clegg has to walk a difficult tightrope.

    Nick Robinson articulates the dilemma very well. Clegg either has to support the Tories in dealing with economic crisis, or he can throw in his lot with Labour and prop up a failed regime.

    If Clegg offeres support to the largest party to sort out the economy, he is seen to be acting in the National interest. But if Clegg supports Labour instead, it becomes clear he is only thinking of his party.

    If Clegg acts in the National Interest and supports a Tory-led government, there are some in his ancient party who will not forgive him. But if he supports Labour and keeps them in office against the wishes of the people, the rest of the country will never forgive him.

    Hung Parliaments would be the norm if we had proportional representation - and some people are already losing their appetites for all the horse trading.

    Now is Clegg's moment of truth. Will he put party politics to one side, or will he join the failed Labour party to pursue his own agenda?

    John Major gives a good analysis of the situation on the Today programme 10/05/10

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00s8hv4

    Listen at 02:11:00

  • Comment number 74.

    "marymervyn wrote:
    The Lib Dem's will be dammed if they do and damed if they don't. But if they do a deal with the Conservative without PR it will be the end of them. A lot of people who voted Lib Dem did so to try and keep the Tories out. They will never have a better chance again. They should go for getting Gordon to go and grab the golden prize."

    Just as a lot of people voted Lib Dems because they didn't want Labour in. The Lib Dems will have to decide if they would rather lose their support in the South West or in the North and Scotland.

  • Comment number 75.

    #8 Mark Braund
    "52 per cent of the popular vote beats 36 per cent."

    ...and 36% beats any one of the others singly. 59% Lib + Con takes the pot. 71% have had enough of Brown and Labour.

    We can keep the numbers game up until the cows come home...


  • Comment number 76.

    I just saw on BBC news that it said "shadow cabinet" is meeting.

    Who exactly is the current shadow cabinet, and how can we have a shadow cabinet after an election in which a government has not yet been formed, nor is there a current sitting Parliament?

  • Comment number 77.

    So Brown said on the doorstep of number 10 he would wait until the talks between the tories and the lib dems are finished before making his own offer. A usual he was lying.

  • Comment number 78.

    So if Lib Dems wont play with the tories this time we may as well stick to first past the post. Because if we dont all we will have is a lib/lab disaster for years to come.

    Brown and Clegg were quick to tell each other to get real it is about time that they did.

  • Comment number 79.

    If the Lib Dems agree to go in with Labour, the West Lothian Question immediately arises and produces a Constitutional Crisis in England.

  • Comment number 80.


    You really are flogging a dead horse here pushing out the New Labour spin lines. It's getting rather tedious.

    "I can reveal"? Of course LibDems would meet with New Labour. That strengthens their hand in their talks with Tories.

    Whipping up the red herrings of electoral reform, the rainbow alliance and talk of a 'coalition' with yet another unelected prime minister is part of the endgame to keep the sinking ship afloat for a few days to let Brown quit with some dignity.

    It's the economy. A Tory-LibDem deal to bring some order to the current chaos and get through a Queen's speech and emergency budget.

    Frankly I'm surprised you are letting yourself be taken in and fooled by petty New Labour spin politics.

  • Comment number 81.

    Dear Mr Nick Robinson,
    Is this line "..a promise that Gordon brown will not be around for ever..." about whom?

  • Comment number 82.

    If you want the best deal, surely it makes sense to speak to all interested parties?
    Play one off against the other. Any other course of action would be misguided or naive.
    This of course is the problem with PR. You would have these protracted negotiations at every turn.
    Another election is the only sensible alternative.

  • Comment number 83.

    I hear talk of a Lib-Lab alliance being an alliance of progressive liberal parties. The only thing Brown has been liberal with is truth and tax money. The only thing progressive about Labour is their march toward financial oblivion.

  • Comment number 84.

    Peter Mandelson and Andrew Adonis are not elected MP's, the present Prime Minister is not elected either, never was. So the Libs had a secret meeting with a bunch of un-elected friends of Brown, this is very ugly. Someone in the Labour party has to grow some balls, get Brown and his non-elected mates aside and then Labour maybe able to negotiate with Libs.

  • Comment number 85.

    Nick,

    Nice to see that you are still holding out for a Lib - Lab coalition, just as you did immediately after the first debate when you told us politics had changed forever, only to then find that the election almost brought us back to the same starting point.

    If the Lib Dems do a deal with a party whose eventual leader we do not yet know, I hope that they are wiped out by UKIP, the Greens, Indpendents and every other colour of the rainbow. Labour does not have any mandate to govern, nor should we listen to those that think that the man that got us into the mess has any right to repair the damage that he caused. He was warned a long time ago that we did not want him, and that message has been firmly placed in his intray. If the Lib Dems move it to pending, then they too will be duly served notice. Bear in mind that Clegg told us that he represented Change, not 4 or 5 more years of a discredited Labour government. If he can't rise above naked ambition, he will go down in history as the man who snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • Comment number 86.

    I guess the key question no-one talks about too loudly is this:

    'What is it about the Libdems that mean they don't support either Labour or Tory?'

    I think you'll find that, on the left, the traditional Libdem supporter can't stand Unions holding the economy to ransom and are also in support of a mixed economy without a dominant State and they used to be supporting electoral democracy, something which the creation of the EU state has challenged to its limits, it would seem (since no true liberal democrat (small letters not capital ones) could possibly agree to forming a new anti-democratic state without consulting those who would be forced to exist within its boundaries).

    Whereas on the right, the Libdem supporter can't stand warmongering for political influence, can't stand the City markets holding the world to ransom on a concentration span of a day or less and they are contemptuous of hard-right attitudes to education (they are not opposed to discipline or learning, but deride rote learning and corporal punishment as the core, as opposed to peripheral, offering) and Europhobia in its broadest sense (i.e. hating Europeans per se, as opposed to hating particular mechanisms within the EC/EU).

    I guess that we didn't get the chance to express second preferences in the election, so there is no data to say what percentage of Libdems were on the left side and which on the right side. The tipping point for a left-wing coalition being supported more by the electorate than a right-wing coaltion would be if 15% supported the left. Then you would score 45% Labour plus left-libdem, 45% Tory plus right-libdem. Any more than that and the truth is a left-wing alliance holds greater sway amongst the big three.

    Any idea what the truth is there Mr Robinson?

    Because I'm sorry, 'losers' may be 'winners' if the true broader church of the electorate were considered, not limited to party colours but to electoral preferences.

    You'll note I don't know the answer.

  • Comment number 87.

    No7

    Let's hope it happens - a rainbow coalition which denied the result of the election and put the Scots Nationalists into partnership with a coalition of the losers would cause justifiable outrage in England!

    We have had a belly full of Scottish rule south of the border!
    ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    You sound just like the national leader that your people have been waiting on all the long barren years when they were oppressed by a cabal from mordor..do not speak its name! Much more of this and you may well soon have the ear of Baronet Osbourne!

  • Comment number 88.

    Owen@#27
    "What you forget is that only a third of the country voted for the Tories!"

    Which is in turn just shy of a third more than voted for Labour!

  • Comment number 89.

    #8 Get real.

    A coalition that does not involve the party that won the largest share of the vote is by definition a coalition of losers. Period.

    But... spin is the modern way, such as calling a coalition of losers a "progressive alliance". Ummmm how can it be progressive and include the failed governing party of the last 13 years? After 13 years it's a bit late to start making "progress".

  • Comment number 90.

    When will we learn that Gordon Brown has been having secret talks with David Cameron? That may be unlikely but Hague, Osborne, Letwin et al having talks with Mandelbrot, Milliband, Balls and Adonis (sounds like a firm of solicitors!), now that's not so unlikely - after all their policies are very similar, only the rhetoric is different.

  • Comment number 91.

    Stay Gordon! Stay! - You're our best hope of an English Parliament (but the country may have to go bankrupt in the process and we may need a suitcase full of money to go out and buy a loaf of bread ... but I don't care as Gordon will eventually be gone and England will have its own Parliament).

    I might even meet Gordon when I go out to buy the last loaf of bread on the shelf.

  • Comment number 92.

    'ConLibDem' has the appropriate anagram Climb Done or perhaps 'Climb on Ed' (Balls or Miliband?)

  • Comment number 93.

    Well over half of UK voters from Thursday wouldn't have a problem with a Lib/Lab coalition...

    The bottom line, for me as a Liberal voter, is that pairing up with the Conservatives would feel like a betrayal. While Mr Cameron may be trying to spell out similarities of opinion with lower priority policies, let it never be forgotten than in so many areas the Conservative point of view is the polar opposite to the Liberal. How would that work in practice the very first time that the Conservatives proposed a bill which went against Liberal principles? Could Clegg really be expected to convince his MPs to tow the Tory party line? I certainly don't think so.

    A Liberal/Conservative pact would be bad for British politics.

  • Comment number 94.

    "Nick wrote:
    Osric, you don't seem to understand that PR would destroy the Conservative Party. They would become the third party for a generation or more."

    It is impossible to say what would happen - we might find that under full PR the UKIP vote could be higher and a grouping between UKIP and the Tories might be balanced by a grouping between the Lib Dems and Labour (UKIP did pretty well under the PR system for the European elections)

    What is likely to happen though is that under PR the minority parties will likely auction off their seats to the grouping which is willing to offer them the most.

  • Comment number 95.

    I do not buy this coalition of the left idea. I live in the South of England where most Lib Dem voters whom I know would prefer the Conservatives to Labour. If the Conservatives are denied the chance to form a Government by a rag bag of Non English and Northern Constituancies dependent upon the Public Sector, one way or another, there will be considerable resentment. I think that a Conservative / Lib Dem Alliance would be good for the Country. Labour have run the Country into the ground in pursuit of ideology for too long with no one to check them. It would be good if a Government needed to earn concensus, and 2 parties with fresh ideas are better placed to do that. The voting system certainly needs changing to eliminate the bias towards Labour and over representation of Scotland.

  • Comment number 96.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 97.

    9. At 12:19pm on 10 May 2010, pdavies65 wrote:
    Gerry @ 281 on previous thread

    ..............I agree that Milliband is the only current contender who might go down well with the electorate..........

    ****************************

    What's wrong with Alan Johnson? Not the brightest spark in the bonfire, but at least he's done a proper job and has, in the past, worked for the sort of wages many of the electorate are earning.
    He may be out of touch with that sentiment to some extent now, but at least he's done it.

    Could even tempt me to reconsider my voting intent.

  • Comment number 98.

    Clearly, electoral reform is going to be a big part of the negotiations between the Tories and the LibDems.

    The LibDems' arguments in favour of electoral reform would have a much greater moral force if they could claim that the majority of the electorate voted for electoral reform.

    But can they? It's an interesting question, to which I don't know the answer. It's probably fair to assume that anyone who voted LibDem is in favour of electoral reform, and anyone who voted Tory is against (it won't be true for everyone of course, but it's a good working assumption). But what about those who voted Labour? Technically, you could argue that their manifesto had a commitment to electoral reform, so you could add all the Labour votes to those in favour of it.

    However, don't forget that there was a similar commitment in Labour's 1997 manifesto, which they never acted on. Most voters are probably smart enough to realise that despite what it says in the Labour manifesto, the Labour party is in practice in favour of keeping the FPTP system.

  • Comment number 99.

    It is very doubtful if the rank and file of the Lib/Dems will accept any arrangement with the dirty money Ashcroft party. We will soon find out.
    I can imagine the hard men of the looney Tory right already planning to dump Nick and his pals at the first opportunity.

  • Comment number 100.

    Most seats and votes must count for somthing surely?

    I thought Clegg was honourable. If a Lib/Lab pact is even suggested then I think there should be Blue uprising on the scale of the Poll Tax protests.

 

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