'There is an alternative'
That is the message coming from the leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond. He's calling on the Liberal Democrats to join him and Plaid Cymru and Labour in a "progressive alliance" instead of doing a deal with the Conservatives.
Mr Salmond says: "The assumption of a Tory/Liberal Democrat pact is not correct. There are alternative and more progressive options available if politicians have the will to seize the moment. The SNP and Plaid are indicating that we do."
An arrangement between Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Plaid could command a majority in the House of Commons (see the figures below). The nationalist parties would, of course, extract financial and political concessions from Westminster.
The key question Liberal Democrats have to consider is how stable such an arrangement would prove to be. Legislating for a referendum on electoral reform, staging it and implementing the necessary boundary changes could take over two years. So, if PR is the main goal for many Lib Dems they'd have to be sure that "the progressive alliance" would last that long.
If it does come about it would highlight one little talked about but significant development in this election - the growing gulf between England and the rest of the UK. In England the Tories secured almost 40% of the vote and 297 seats whilst Labour got just 28% and 191 seats.
Now you might think that the nationalists would want a Tory/English government at Westminster cutting public spending, since it would increase support for independence.
However, both the SNP and Plaid are now in government facing elections next year and would prefer to be able to say to the electorate "look how we protected you from cuts/extracted money to pay for Scottish and Welsh jobs".
The DUP in Northern Ireland may well make the same calculation.
If all joined together in an anti-Tory alliance they would have a comfortable majority - with 340 votes in the Commons - although comfortable is not how the arrangement between Labour and its traditional nationalist foes might feel to them or many Conservative voters in England.
If you like the detail, here are the figures :
No party has enough seats to win votes in parliament without the support of members of other parties.
The Conservatives are the largest party with a total of 306 seats in the Commons - which would go up to 307 -- if they win the delayed election in Thirsk and Molton - until now, at least, a safe Conservative seat.
If they tried to govern alone they would, in theory, face a combined opposition of 343 MPs.
In reality it's somewhat different. Sinn Fein won 5 seats - and they don't take their seats in the House of Commons - so the opposition benches reduce to 338.
A Con/Lib Dem coalition would give them a total of 364 - enough to govern comfortably.
A looser arrangement in which the Lib Dems agreed not to vote against a Tory Budget or the Queen's Speech would mean 306 or 307 Tories facing a depleted opposition of 281 (that's 338 - 57 Lib Dems)
If a Lib Dem/Conservative deal fails, Gordon Brown will try to form a government.
If Labour and the Lib Dems joined forces - the extra 57 votes are not enough to make them the biggest force even with the support of the Northern Irish SDLP (who sat on the government benches in the last parliament) and the one new Alliance MP who is allied to the Lib Dems. Together that's 319 votes.
With the support of the nationalists from Scotland and Wales they would reach 330.
If the DUP joined too and the independent unionist and the new Green MP this alliance would have 338 votes in the Commons.