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Torture for Clegg

Nick Robinson | 09:45 UK time, Saturday, 8 May 2010

"The electorate have invented an instrument of excruciating torture for the Liberal Democrats".

Thus a senior party figure summed up their predicament.

The maths, he went on, don't work one way - a Lib-Lab coalition could only have a working majority in alliance with all the unionists and all the nationalists. Hardly a recipe for stability.

The instincts don't work the other - few relish the prospect of getting into bed with the Conservatives who most Lib Dems grew up opposing if not loathing.

They should not complain too much. Their position proves that less can, indeed, be more. Less (OK, fewer) MPs will produce what Simon Hughes called this morning the "best opportunity in 35 years" to achieve some of their goals.

Senior Lib Dems I've spoken to believe that the Tories are sincere in their negotiations although they regard David Cameron's opening offer as little more than agreeing where possible, applying the Tory manifesto where not combined with a re-heat of Ted Heath, and later, Tony Blair's plan to look at electoral reform. They will push for more.

They will, no doubt, have heard the sabre rattling from the man who wants to be seen as the standard bearer of the Tory grass roots - Liam Fox - who declared today that his party's "collective leadership" (note those words Mr Cameron) would not be "held to ransom".

My hunch is that a Tory/Lib Dem arrangement can be formed but not a coalition which both parties would find too hard to stomach. The reason is that both parties' leaderships have a shared interest in avoiding an early second election. The Lib Dems are shell shocked by the extent to which their dreams of an electoral breakthrough were smashed and have no money for anther campaign. The Tories are surprised by Labour's electoral resilience and do not fancy getting to grips with the deficit whilst constantly looking over their shoulders at the electorate.

Oh, and one other thing. Lib Dem votes in Parliament may prove more reliable for David Cameron than restless Tory backbenchers.

1509: Liam Fox insists that he was not firing a shot across his leader's bows when he spoke of collective leadership but was, merely, comparing the speed with which the Tories could act and the slow, consultative processes of the Lib Dems.


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  • Comment number 1.

    What a shambles. Voters are on tenterhooks with an outgoing prime minister and a new prime minister-in-waiting and a total loser trying to call the shots.

    Some kind of Tory-Lib deal is a no-brainer. The only way to prise Brown out of Number 10 and have a stab at a 'strong and stable' government. But the New Labour spin is back in overdrive.

    A day is a long time in politics?

  • Comment number 2.

    Intelligent politics depends on good fair debate, argument and discussion to find the best solutions to any given problem. The Tories have consistently ruled out PR in this election and they do not believe in it now. Therefore they do not believe in fair debate and cannot be trusted. Nor did the Tories condemn the unfair tactics of their own publicity, the Tory press or large sections of the media who behaved unethically. If you do not try to act on an ethical basis then you have no mandate to assume power. The majority of the population did not vote Tory. Morally the Tories have already lost. If there is a pact it should be Lib-Lab on the understanding PR is implemented as soon as possible together with critical financial arrangements thought out for the short term. Then at last we have the beginnings of a fair political system in this country. Smaller Parties like the Greens will be able to have a more proper influence.

  • Comment number 3.

    Assuming Cameron & Clegg can strike a deal, it means that Gordon hasn't got a clegg to stand on...

  • Comment number 4.

    Full proportional representation is in the long term interests of the Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat parties. PR will allow each party to stand on their core beliefs, without any awkward positioning to fit floating voters and the first-past-the-post system.

    But will each party look to their long-term or short-term interest? Will the Lib Dems judge that a short-term election hit, for jumping into bed with Labour, is worth the long-term gain of a better electoral system?

  • Comment number 5.

    I think it unlikely that a formal coalition can be formed between the Conservatives and the LibDems; it would require the abandonment of too many principles on BOTH sides. At the same time, Nick's arithmetic is esstially correct Labour is unlikely to be able to produce a stable and survivable grouping, though the LibDems might well consider a formal coalition with Labour; (That would, I suspect, produce rapid failure because of the clear numerical superiority of Tory votes nationally).

    Perhaps it is time for Cameron and Clegg, together, to agree to see Gordon Brown and suggest a government of national unity. Cameron as PM and the Tories as the basis of the gorvernment, but with posts for LibDem and Labour politicians in the Cabinet. Pick the best talents, not place-men (or women). Anyone unable to stomach such an arrangement can form the opposition.

    There is only one issue to be sorted out - the economy. The rest depends upon a return to fiscal stability. Parliamentary reform can be addressed, but as a cross-party issue, with a referendum guaranteed on the proposals.

    Economy first and last - and party politics at the end of the list.

    Get on with it!

  • Comment number 6.

    I find it strange that everyone is going on about Nick Griffin coming third in Barking, but nobody is mentioning that the amnesty - granting Liberals came in behind him.

    And I also see that Parliament gained a Green in Brighton, but lost an Anagram in Montgomeryshire.

  • Comment number 7.

    There are areas where things can be agreed. The removal of the poverty trap, as we called it back in the 1980's, 30 years ago, where working results in removal of benefits at over 70%. (Can't tax the rich at over 40% apparently, it's a complete disencentive, but the poor are different) could be on.
    Very few people in the Lib Dems want to join the Euro soon (ignore what the papers said). Most think Europe needs reforming and the waste and theft stopped. (always been disappointed that Lab and Tory never allied with the those who would have agreed and maybe done something about it and just moaned instead)
    Both parties will have to make compromises but 23% + 36% has a lot more legitamcay than 36% in making the tough decisions needed. Just ignore the Murdoch Press and get down to it.

  • Comment number 8.

    This could be a good thing for the Labour Party in the long term. As a life long Liberal voter, if Clegg gets into bed with Cameron, they will have lost my vote. I am not alone.

  • Comment number 9.

    Alex Salmond is licking his chops just waiting to say at the next Assembly election that the LDs are just Tories in disguise. If the Scottish LDs have much say in this deal, it might never be done.

  • Comment number 10.

    How about all parties agreeing a way to increase tax and send a signal to "the markets" to then give them due time for negotiations? increase in VAT , 1p on the basic tax rate? If they cant agree on that what's the hope on anything else!

    On my earlier post:
    Nick Clegg needs to abide by the principle of fairness and the new ways of working together that he won us over with in the debates.

    We all need to work together to pay off the nation's debts . That will mean that everyone will be paying higher taxes and those that want to be part of the nation should be paying them - Lord Ashcroft , illegal immigrants - all of us! Equally we are all need to work together for efficiencies and suffer cuts in public spending.

    Note that the press support for Cameron didnt win it for him - take note The Sun. The country agrees that Brown should move on in the near future however the world economic crisis wasnt just Brown's fault. It came about from the free market and deregulatory ideology that Mrs T adopted in in the "loadsa money Big Bang 80s" and adopted by Blair and Brown. Also the Greek crisis is partly about corruption and tax evasion unfairness as well as a country living beyond its means.

    Lets hope for a consensus. We all need to come together and that should be based on fairness.

  • Comment number 11.

    Labour resilience? Please, for once can the BBC be honest about Labour. The worst result in terms of the share of the vote since 1983. 90 seats lost. Swings of ovr 10% in some northern seats. A vote of nearly 40% for the Tories in England with a majority of 62. A massive swing against Labour in Wales. The fact is that in an English and Welsh Parliament the Tories would have a majority of 65. And all this despite the blatently unfair allocation of seats - the Tories have a much higher share of the overall vote than Labour achieved in 2001 - and the creation of a Labour client state ove 13 years. Based on the 2001 vote, the Tories should have had a majority of perhaps 80. Please, real analysis rather than this sad Labour bias.

  • Comment number 12.


    There's something I don't quite get... perhaps you can explain. It seems to me that the Liberal Democrats could, ironically, be the most anti-democratic party. Let me elaborate...

    As I understand, to create some form of alliance the Lib Dem process is (broadly): first, 75% of the parliamentary party need to agree, second 75% of the federal committee need to agree, and third, failing that, a national conference needs to agree to the terms.

    My question: how is that democratic?

    We, as the British people have elected our MPs and sent them to Westminster. The MPs represent us, the constituents. Under our system, we select the MP for our constituency; we do not select the party. Now, of course, the Parliamentary Liberal Democrat Party needs to decide among its members how they will vote. This is reasonable, and I have no problems with this sort of coordination. If these DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED MPs make the decision about alliances, I would have no concerns.

    But the Lib Dems are suggesting that actually their MPs should not be answerable to their constituents, but instead, should be answerable to/follow decisions made by "the Party" (with all the connotations that the term holds).

    Surely "democracy" means that everyone gets a vote about how they will be governed. It cannot be democratic that one group of people get to vote how another group of people should be governed. Let me draw a parallel: it would not be democratic for the Welsh Assembly--as a democratic body with democratic legitimacy--to then exercise power over the Scottish people.

    In short, under the Liberal Democrat system, we will have decisions made by a group of people who may have been democratically elected, much in the way that the committee of the local golf club have been democratically elected, but who have no democratic legitimacy in respect of the decision they will be taking.

    Is that really right for a party that wants voting reform? Is that really right for a party that wants to improve the accountability of MPs?

  • Comment number 13.

    This is why we need Proportional Representation. The Lib Dem and Labour vote together is greater than 50%. We should have a system where the vote actually reflects the number of seats. It's so wrong that a Labour/Lib Dem coalition would require additional parties, even though their VOTES would suggest otherwise.

    I hope they don't join with the Conservatives, even if it seems like the most obvious solution. *shudder*

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    Am I missing the point about "electoral reform " ? Simon Hughes has just said everyone agrees the current system , which has produced a hung Parliament , isn't working . I disagree. Apart from the fact that the Lib Dems' self interest is only too obvious, proportional representation by definition guarantees a hung Parliament every time.

  • Comment number 16.

    If the Liberal Democrats give u on electoral reform now, to make a deal with the Conservatives, they might not get a chance for a long, long time. Committees and reviews are a convenient way of delaying and deferring things.

  • Comment number 17.

    Whilst the numbers for a Lib/Lab coalition + smaller parties do indeed give a Commons majority, can anyone really see it working out?

    The SNP have historically refrained from voting on 'English' only matters in Parliament, and this position would need to be dropped.

    SNP and PC leaders have already made it clear that their support will come at a hefty price. Will Brown really be able to govern knowing that every supporting vote in the House will be followed by an invoice for services rendered?
    Due respect to PC though. They have at least indicated a willingness to talk to the Tories.

    Whist it would not be be an ideal solution, a Lib/Con agreement is the only practical way forward, both numerically and politically.

    A resolution that agrees to prioritise the major problems that need to be dealt with immediately but recognising that electoral reform will be given serious attention once the more important matters are under way, is the only way forward.

    PR cannot be introduced overnight and may not even be ready in time for the next election.
    The financial crisis is not going to go into sleep mode, nor will the Taliban call a ceasefire, while the UK sorts out its voting system.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think Clegg would earn some serious political capital if he did allow Cameron to govern in the way you're suggesting. The easy decision for the Lib Dems would be to join forces with Labour, so its refreshing to see him respect the will of the electorate.

    On the other hand, you would have to ask, how far does political capital get you? The Lib Dems have been the integrity candidate for the past two elections but have reached a glass ceiling with the electoral system. If they aren't going to take the chance to force through PR now, then when will they?

  • Comment number 19.

    Nick, I think we all know that another election is on the cards sooner rather than later, certainly before the year is up. The problem is that under the current system the result will be broadly similar, depending upon whether Brown was still Labour leader or not. Even without Brown, Labour would still rely on LD support. One thing in the Conservatives favour is that DC's predictions have proved to be spot on - a hung parliament would result in the fall of the Pound and market instability. The other thing in the Conservatives favour is that, as far as I understand, Lord Ashcroft hasn't yet ran out of cash.

    If we went back to the polls under a form of PR we would effectively end up with a lab-con (!!) coalition because the LD vote would collapse. Why the liberals endlessly call for PR beats me, because the bulk of their votes are tactical and they have very little core support. They are deluding themselves if they think PR will give them a better chance of gaining a share of power. Last week's election should have sent them a clear message that they are not taken seriously, they are regarded by the unthinking part of the electorate as some sort of halfway-house between Labour and Conservative. But, with the stakes so high last week, many people drifted back to the party where their natural allegiance lied and shunned the LD's in large numbers. Unfortunately, not large enough numbers to avoid the mess that we have been placed in.

    The best way to sort out the problem is for a temporary Labour/Conservative pact to make the LD's a proscribed organisation, and then lets get back to the good old system that's served the country well in the past. A bit tongue in cheek, maybe, but it's the best idea so far to negotiate the impasse.

  • Comment number 20.

    No taxation without representation! The rallying cry of the American rebels during their war of independence from Britain. The same applies now in modern Britain with its 18th century constitutional settlement.

    As a LibDem activist, not NO but HELL NO to any deal to put in place a Tory party that is viscerally opposed to the electoral reform we desperately need if we are to end the corrupt and rotten Parliamentary and governmental system we have in the UK. There was one very clear correlation that arose out of the MPs expenses scandal: the safer the seat, the bigger the claims. And whose were the biggest MPs expenses claims of all from? Tory MPs from the shires, and most notably David Cameron.

    The other point about the result of the General Election is that there is NO mandate for a Tory government; the Tories failed owing the system that they espouse. They have no goddam right now to bitch and moan; First-Past-the-Post delivered an emphatic slap to everyone - including the Tories.

    If we are to fix the economy, move away from total over-dependence on the casino of the City of London and restore faith in our political institutions, we need a root and branch rebuilding of our political system. Whose economy is stronger: ours or Germany's? Whose political system has promoted consensus and compromise or opposition and polarity? Ours is the former, Germany's is the latter.

  • Comment number 21.

    The Tories should be strong and not sell themselves down the river for what could be a short term deal with the Liberals.

    If the Liberals want to go off and do a deal with Labour, and form a Government of Losers, then let them. It would be the best possible anti-advert one could think of for proportional representation!!! Imagine too what even the Tories could make of that in the next election!!!!!

    My view is firmly that First Past the Post is best, but it needs to be improved by making Constituencies approx the same number of electors.

  • Comment number 22.

    One outcome no one has talked about is if the tories and the lib dems do not do a deal is the conservatives telling gorden brown that they will not vote against the current labour government in no confidence votes but will oppose measures they cannot live with. In this way the lib dems are not power brokers and the labour party can shoulder the blame for the mess they have created.

  • Comment number 23.

    We are going to have to have another election within a year. So why doesn't Gordon Brown call one today to be held four weeks on Thursday, announcing at the same time that he will resign the minute before polls open and handover to a new leader - Ed Balls perhaps as the Tories seem so frightened of him that they, or rather Lord Ashcroft, spent a huge amount of money trying to oust him. This would ensure that the country continues to be run, enable the new man to concentrate on the election, the Lib Dem vote will collapse as most people are both disgusted by their willingness to even talk to the Tories or have seen through Mr Clegg's acting ability and realise that many of their policies are unacceptable. Most people would then vote for either the Labour or Conservative candidates and a majority would be won by one or other. This would give us four weeks of Brown and Darling continuing to do the right thing economically and be followed by the stable government the markets want to see.

    On the subject of people complaining about not being able to vote because of queues at Polling Stations at the end of polling at 10.00pm. Don't they realise that polling begins at 7.00am and that the Stations are open for 15 hours? Even the laziest/busiest person can find time to vote during that time

  • Comment number 24.

    Well, you's wanted a strong leader, now you'll prob have a leader who blew a 20 point lead in 6 months despite having the most expensive campaign in electoral history as well as all the coat tail hangers in the media playing there snide tricks,(ie invading GB's privacy off cam an playing the the Bigotgate tape), and is willing to jump into bed with the enemy and the unionists in the UK, plus joins alliances with all the minority facist far right wing MEp's in Europe. So we are looking at being pushed further away from our fellow europeans, muddy waters setting back in Northern ireland just as they had found a common ground to build a future on together, now how will Nationalists feel with a London government favouring 1 side of the Irish parliament. All Cameron's proved is he is willing to do whatever it takes to feed his Eton ego and get into power and bring back Thatcherism to Britain, so look forward to the rich getting richer, the poor staying poorer and the middle not getting anywhere fast, I mean he choose to mention places like M&S as business allies, isn't this the same company that was on the brink of bankruptcy 2 years ago. I just find it terrible that most ppl in the daily polls leading up to the election thought GB wass the best candidate and more suited to being prime minister to led us out of the GLOBAL economic(notce the US, italy, germany, france all went into recession, china's growth actually slowed down, the problems in greece now, how can you blame him for that??, as the banks say, it started with the american market then snowballed from there) but he's just not liked in England because of his place of birth, and if thats the views, why didn't you just vote for Nick Griffin as it borders on the same attitude?

  • Comment number 25.

    As a LibDem, I would be happy for Nick and the party to vote in the Tory's favour on some issues where we don't actually agree with the Tories, like Trident, for the sake of national solidarity. We may not agree with the Tories on a lot, but we should surrender some policy points for the sake of the country. Despite our 23% voting share, we don't have a parliamentary mandate under the current voting system to really take on the Tories on issues that don't fall under our four key policy areas.

    However, we should press home the advantage on taxation, the environment and education where we share considerable policy aims, and I would not be happy at all if we came out of this without a referendum on the Single Transferable Vote. Hopefully the Dan Hannan libertarian element of the Tory backbenches will support a referendum on principle of letting the people decide rather than the state, and in hopes of hurting Labour who currently benefit from FPTP.

  • Comment number 26.


    "The maths, he went on, don't work one way - a Lib-Lab coalition could only have a working majority in alliance with all the unionists and all the nationalists."

    Someone has their maths wrong.

    With no Sinn Fein MPs only 323 is needed for a majority.

    LAB + LD + PC/SNP + SDLP + ALLIANCE = 325 (the SDLP & Alliance are effectively Irish Labour & LD respectively).

    No Unionists required.

    Without the SNP, SDLP & LDs the Conservatives can only get 320. The SNP have said they won't join in with the tories, so it's down to the LDs.

    Steve W

  • Comment number 27.

    Clegg should be striking a deal with Labour that includes immediate introduction of PR (no messing around with referenda; we didn't have one to introduce FPP), him as chancellor, Brown out, and a new election in 2 years time.

    Cameron will not deliver Clegg any of these things, and the country will gain nothing.

  • Comment number 28.

    I think Nick Robinson, drawing upon all his experience, has come up with an extremely plausibe scenario.

    That is, not a formal coalition between the Tories and Lib-Dems, which would prove too toxic for the foot-soldiers but more of an semi-formal arrangement.

    One would hope that the overall effect of the Lib-Dems influence will be to act as an effective counter some of the Tories more anti-social policies ala Hammersmith.

  • Comment number 29.

    Without stating the obvious, at least 15 of the newly elected Lib Dem MP's hold very slender majorities in what is the now blue corner of England, ie Dorset Mid and Torbay etc, and I would not like to be one of them today out shopping in Torquay/Poole even countenancing anything other than Tory/Lib pact. Can you imagine trying to explain in these locations how you now want to help Bunker Gordon? Its electoral suicide!

  • Comment number 30.

    A Lib-Lab pact or arrangement is not a loser coalition. Nobody lost, my vote and opinion is as representative as anybody else's, the Government is supposed to represent everybody.

  • Comment number 31.

    Nick Clegg in the light of his shouting off about the "old parties" etc. should refuse to join either Conservative OR Labour. He and his party would be swallowed up into oblivion by them anyway.

    Labour cannot form a proper government with dribs and drabs of Welsh, Scotish fringe elements and then must go to the Queen.

    David Cameron must be Prime Minister of a minority Conservative government which will win earn its right to be there - its spurs if you like - then go to the country in about a year for more support.

    We did not vote for a hung or a coalition parliament. I think it's insulting for the media to say we did. I would say the vast majority of voters voted for the party and the policies and the leaders they wanted.

    If Clegg goes with Labour it will be seen as two losers ganging up on the winner. I am sure he is more honourable than that, although we all know Brown isn't, he will cling on at any cost, he has no pride and we know what he thinks of the man or woman in the street - bigotgate.

  • Comment number 32.

    If Nick Clegg is sincere about putting The National Interest first , then he will grasp this opportunity to share power with the Tories and put electoral reform on the back burner for now. If he plays his cards right he may find he enhances his, and his party's reputation sufficiently, so as they won't need a change in the voting system to become the natural alternative to the Tories in the future.

  • Comment number 33.

    On the subject of real Democracy - has anyone realised the size of the Conservative Majority in England, the only UK country without its own Parliament/Assembly?

    Given the population imbalances its clearly a nonsinse for England to have its own separate Parliament - there's absolutely no need for the extra cost and bureaucracy. However, equally clearly, Non-English MPs should not be allowed to vote on English only matters.

    Put another way, if a given matter only involves England, Northern Ireland and Wales because that matter has been devolved to the Scottish Parliament for Scotland, then Scottish MPs should not be allowed to vote on it, because it does not concern their constituencies or electorate.

  • Comment number 34.

    Labour 33,350 votes per seat, Conservative 34,989 votes per seat, Lib Dems 119,788 votes per seat, Greens 285,616 votes per seat, UKIP 917,832 votes no seats.

  • Comment number 35.

    I assume that all the Lib Dem supporters insisting that full PR is the only way to have fair debate would be happy to see the BNP with the 12 MPs they "earned" in the election this week?

  • Comment number 36.

    I can understand why David Cameron is so anti the idea of changing the voting system; after all, the maths would suggest that it would mean the conservatives would be unable to hold the reins of power unless forming part of a coalition government.
    However, I should urge Cameron to wake up to the political realities of today's Britian, rather than focusing simply on his own personal and party agendas.
    Although their voices should be heard, for simplicity and purposes of illustraion let us set aside the smaller parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland plus the newly elected Green MP for a moment and focus on the three major parties.
    From a policy point of view, I heard a political commentator a few years ago make the observation that actually there are five parties within the main three. I should go further and suggest six, which are:
    1) Hard-line conservatives who are anti-Europe, many with neo-Thatcherite policies;
    2) Moderate conservatives (pro-European) reflecting the kind of middle of the road conservatism articulated by the late Edward Heath when he was Prime Minister and took Britain into the EU;
    3) Traditional Liberals. Remnants of the Liberal Party of Jeremy Thorpe and to some extent David Steel when he led the Liberals;
    4) Social Democrats who coalesced around the 'Gang of Four' (the late Roy Jenkins, along with David Owen, Shirley Williams and Bill Rodgers), whose break away from the more traditional Labour party of the late 1970s led to a failed attempt to establish a party with a centre left position.
    Subsequently, the '2 Davids' (David Steel and David Owen) joined forces to form the Liberal Democrat party of today.
    5) New Labour who effectively reengineered the Labour party under the leadership of Neil Kinnock following Labour's landslide defeat in the general election of 1983. Subsequent leadership under John Smith and then Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown have placed New Labour as being very similar in policies to many Social Democrats in other countries. They are effectively a centre-left party.
    6) Traditional Labour which was founded in 1900 and took its ideological roots from the labour union movements of the 19th century. This is more clearly a left wing party with few centrist features.
    If one reads some of the grass roots thinking of members of these parties (not just MPs), it is evident that despite the packaging at least six political positions are alive and well.
    If the members of the main three parties were to remove the packaging of their parties and stand on the six platforms above which were true to their principles, then it is simple maths to see that none of them would command an overall majority.
    Ironically, at the fringes, there exist voters and MPs who could comfortably drift across the divide between certain parties and comfortably sit elsewhere. This is important for coalition politics. For example, moderate conservatives probably have a great deal in common with Liberals, Social Democrats and New Labour.
    One might venture to suggest that a movement in the tectonic party plates could create a three major parties of the traditional left (Labour); a centrist party (Social Democrats) with some left and right of centre policies; and a right wing party of traditional conservatives.
    My guess would be that whether one employed a first past the post system or some form or proportional representation, the current electoral voting preferences would create a centrist Social Democrat party.
    I should also suggest that part of the reason why this election has delivered the kinds of results that we see are not only to do with the absurdity of the seat allocation of the current system, but are also due to a gross disatisfaction by the British people with being asked to vote for parties that consist of too wide a range of political internal values and hence polcies.
    Both Blair and Cameron have effectively used this to their advantage to repackage Labour and Conservatives as being centre left and centre right parties respectively, when in reality many of their supporters and indeed MPs are not of this persuasion.
    An electoral process based upon some form of proportional representation with a break up of the major parties into five or six new 'purer' parties, alongside the existing smaller parties would give voters a much fairer and sensible choice.
    Of course for reasons of economics, some of these new parties would be unable to afford nationwide campaigns (at least with MPs in every constituency), just as the smaller parties today can only canvas selected constituencies.
    However, if the role of MPs were seen as being less closely linked to specific constituencies and more to specific national policies, then this would not be an issue. For example, a Green party might field 80 candidates for a parliament of 500 seats and gain 15% of the national vote thus achieving approximately 75 seats. As a result, a government coalition which included the greens would now also incorporate green policies that were supported by a reasonable number of voters.
    So if David Cameron really believes in change, perhaps he should stop living in the past and accept that change involves making decisions that are not always comfortable, but which essentially are fairer and can move this country forward.

  • Comment number 37.

    If the Tories won't change the voting system Clegg should walk away and go into a Progressive coalition with Labour, SNP and PC. This would have an overall majority (as Sein Fein won't attend and the speaker won't vote) but it is also likely SDLP and some time Greens would also support them. This could plan a referendum on voting and a programme for 18 months. They could use the 'One Wales' model from Lab/PC in Wales.

    The parties in such a coalition had a total vote share of about 55% to the Tories 36%.

  • Comment number 38.

    Never mind PR, the situation just hilites how unfair this whole system is to England.
    Due to the Barnett formula we do not get as much per head as other nations in the union.
    We do not have an English assembly, to best represent the interests of the English people.
    The Scots,Welsh & Irish all have their own assemblies.
    Their MPs are allowed to vote on policy that only affects the English.
    England has given a massive endorsement to the Conservatives yet we are in a situation where to get any cooperation/unison from the Scots,Welsh & Irish National parties,to form a government, they would seek to use their influence to seek even more favours, from their already massively subsidised positions.
    Lets have PR,but lets have it on a Nation by Nation basis this has got to be much fairer, especially for the English

  • Comment number 39.

    Interestingly when Nick Clegg detailed his 'four main priorities' to the press in the last hour he said 'political reform' rather than 'voting reform.' Could be significant I think.

    I think what we'll end up with is an agreement to pass a Conservative Queen's Speech and to not vote down an emergency budget which contains some kind of tax reform. Beyond that is only more uncertainty.

    This isn't what anyone would call an ideal situation but the alternative, Gordon Brown paying off Sottish and Welsh nationalists to stay in power, is even more unpalatable.

  • Comment number 40.

    This is a golden opportunity for the LibDems to make their mark and have a true say in the political future of this nation. Compromise should be the order of the day and they should also remember that all they have fewer seats they are in a position which is far advanced from where they would normally be.

    Advice is, don't screw up, do a deal with the Tories and banish New Labour after 13 appalling years of Government. Don't let them back in because you're asking for too much.

  • Comment number 41.

    So, now we move from a democracy to an electoral auction. Selling our votes to the highest bidder and Nick Clegg proving beyond doubt that a vote for Lib Dem, IS indeed a wasted vote. Talk about playing into the hands of the 'Old' parties. Any credibility he gained for the Liberal Democrats is ebbing away.
    It's a hung parliament, no-one won, they ALL failed to reach a majority under an electoral system that the Labour and Conservative Parties have refused to change in the past - well now it has come back to bite them and rather than accept the result, they choose to ignore it and allow the media and money markets to dictate what happens now. The voters have spoken, if it's not an aceptable result - go to the public again. Dont insult us by assuming we dont understand the current political and economic climate or that we are incapable of making a decision or even that we would not want another general election. As always the self interest of each of these parties is what is preventing another election.

  • Comment number 42.

    A year or so ago the Tories had a 20% poll lead and an overall majority looked a certainty. They're now forced to get into bed with an EU loving, Trident banning, illegal immigrant welcoming, mansion taxing, banker bashing and PR demanding party that finished in third place. I imagine the Tory grass-roots are absolutely livid at this turn of events.

    For his part, wasn't it Clegg who said that the Tories are accustomed to making deals with, and I quote, "racists, homophobes and nutters". So which camp is he proposing to put the Lib-Dems in - the racists, the homophobes or the nutters?

    I just can't imagine that the rank and file in each party will be comfortable with this uneasy alliance. Other countries may be able to make coalitions work at the national level but Westminster is a very tribal and adversarial environment, and that's not something that can be changed overnight. A Lib-Lab pact may make some sense as they share more common ground on fundamental issues, but they would need a mixed-bag of nationalists and fringe parties to force through legislation - not ideal for long-term stability.

    No, the only viable way out of this impasse is another election in the near future. And if that is inconclusive then another and another until we get a majority government.

  • Comment number 43.

    The Liberals finally have the power they needed, but not in the way they wanted. They're caught in the crossfire of the age-old class wars, but which ever side they fall on (or do not fall on) will have greater implications then aristocratic matters; this is the decision which will define the future of Britain itself. Whichever way they go, there will be a price to pay, but the question is, which one will Clegg and the Lib Dems choose to pay for the greater good.

    As I see it, it boils down to a simple problem: Do the Liberals stick by their policies, or their ideaology? They can sell to the Tories for some short-term power (by the way, I trust tories as far as I can throw them), or remain true to their beliefs by going for a riskier Labour alliance (again, I don't really trust them, either).

    In my opinion, they're best bet is to bunker down an deny steps by both to secure them; they will lose public support no matter what they do, but I think remaining neutral will serve them best in the public eye. Hopefully, if the Labour and Tory parties make a hash of their time after this election, people will look more kindly on the Lib Dems in the elections that will probably come in October.

  • Comment number 44.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    It seems to me to be unlikely that the Lib Dems will get into bed with Cameron and the Tories, and that A Lib Dem-Labour alliance is still the more likely of the two. The Lib Dems would be crazy if they did not exert the maximum leverage from their position, which is a godsend to them and may never come again. This will almost certainly mean a demand for the electoral reform, ie some form of PR, probably STV, and they will simply not get that from the Conservatives, even if Cameron were prepare to offer it, because the bulk of his party would be adamantly opposed for the very good reason that if they conceded PR they know they would never hold untrammelled power again. There would always be a hung Parliament. Cameron just conceivably might be prepared to do such a deal to get into no 10 but his party, already restive at his failing to win an overall majority, would rebel against it.
    So the Lib Dems would then have to turn in the other direction to Labour to get a deal involving a commitment to PR. Labour and Brown would probably be prepared to concede it, although the same considerations apply to Labour as to the Tories, namely that if they conceded PR they would never hold office on their own again. However, Labour as a party seem to be not as troubled by this as the Tories are. Brown anyway is desperate to cling to office and this is the only way to do it. Also I feel the bulk of the Parliamentary party and the grass roots are instinctively closer to Labour than to the Cons, and Clegg has to get their approval.
    So maybe we will see a Lib-Lab government with a commitment to a referendum on PR.

    But then would they get it through the Commons, since they would still not have an overall majority and would need the support or acquiescence of most or all of the minor parties. And if they got it through would a referendum necessarily produce a yes result. if not, what happens then?

  • Comment number 46.

    The talks with the tories are a ploy in the only talks which matter - those with Labour.

    The thing to get clear is that the search for and talk of stability is a sham. Starting from here, any pact is not going to last out the year. There will be another election. Given that, the number one (only?) priority for Clegg is to get PR in place before that election. (PR will also suit enough of the minnow parties for the pact to hold up until it is law.).

    Labour will push PR through. The Tories will not.

    Therefore, Clegg is preparing for the talks with Labour. So, his immediate priority is an offer from the Tories to wave in the face of Labour. As soon as he has a good offer from the Tories, the real talks will start. They won't take long.

    Furthermore, Labour is the minimum hypocrisy case for Clegg. It is in his comfort zone. The Tories are not.


  • Comment number 47.

    what a shambles, we have clegg,a loser,brown, a loser, calling the shots on cameron the winner.what other sphere of life do the losers win and the winners lose?.

  • Comment number 48.

    It is a very hard place for Clegg to be, though a lot of it is his own making. He has commented negatively about Brown and his party (at least the grass roots) dislike the Tories so he will take hits whichever way he goes.
    Interestingly, if you have a look at the election result for England the Tories have a very clear majority, which surely shows that we need an English parliament. Give all "regional" parliaments tax raising powers and then have a UK parliament that deals with foreign affairs and any aspects of home affairs that can't be devolved (though I can't think of any off-hand). We then all get more of what we want and at least in England there is a clear position on who's in charge.

  • Comment number 49.

    Hope your hunch that a coalition not on the cards is wrong. History shows that piecemeal support is ineffective. Locking into government in terms of ministries & the Whips Office can secure stable government. Anything else could lead to chaos and an early election which would send shock waves to the markets.

  • Comment number 50.

    Is it not a paradox that one of the, if not the main, parts of the Lib demands is proportional representation. Such a system would seem most likely to provide the country with a hung parliament at every general election. If the Libs cannot agree to work with the Cons now, because of differences of policy and failure of either/both sides to compromise, what is that saying about the workability of that electoral system in this country?

    So, if they don't work with the Cons, I think they are in a very sticky position and may well shoot themselves in the foot for future elections, the first of which is clearly not too far away.

  • Comment number 51.

    No doubt it is torture - but it is torture for majority the public. Then again if Labour get back in, what a disgrace that will be, and the public bear some responsibility for that.
    Does anyone know why the public is still so tribal that they vote as they always have? Think about this example : Hazel Blears, at the centre of the expenses row, with really unacceptable behaviour is voted back in.
    Not only did Labour allow her to stand, which is unacceptable, but the people she screwed wanted more of her. It's truly insane.
    Of course the %age of vote to representative seats a disgrace in any democracy, but the voting population seem to be unable to even hold to account the very people who have taken our hard earned money and feathered their nests.
    It's not Zimbabwe - but only just.
    So will the the conservatives and lib dems get together? Of course they will. Ignore all the stuff about grass roots support - its all about using the magic word "change". I think they will agree to mutually work together to avoid another election in the Autumn. They both want 5 years in power. The details of what both parties want can be easily merged into a more common sense approach. At the end of the day, the party faithful may grumble, but its a real opportunity to make a difference for the country.
    The Lib dems and Labour? It just should not happen. Labour are so used to sliding out of deals, and have screwed the Lib dems a number of times in the past, that it is certain they will carry on doing so.
    I cannot imagine anyone really wanting to work with Gordon Brown or Ed Balls and Mandlesson.

    At the end of the day, the Lib Dems need to show that proportional representation, which will result in compromises, works in a practical situation - and here we have exactly that. They must be able to work with anyone, in order to provide the best management of the country.

  • Comment number 52.

    If the personalities in this debacle were not so power hungry and arrogant and they truly wished to do the best for us, they could perhaps all work together for a better Great Britain.

    The less said about Gordon Brown the better, but David Cameron is more like a right wing Tony Blair, style without much substance and Nick Clegg ruined the LD chances by his stant on the EU and Immigration. They are all out of touch with the electorate and seem to me to be self-seeking.

    We no longer have three political parties, they are all socialists in varying degrees, so why not try to all work together for the greater good?

  • Comment number 53.

    #30 so nobody lost...right...hmmm so therefore everybody won...hmm right. so in a 3 horse race everybody you live by the physics of planet earth?

  • Comment number 54.

    Strange how I hear many people moaning about deals and concessions behind closed doors and the fact that we do not yet know who the future government is going to be, but at the same time are in favour of PR. If we had PR this is exactly what would happen after EVERY future election. Days and days of uncertainty.

  • Comment number 55.

    Gordon Brown is in a very weak position at the moment. Constitutionally it seems that he has the right to have first crack at forming a government, however he can't exercise that right since Clegg wants to talk to the Torys first (so he should since they are the largest party). Brown therefore can do little more than look like the last kid in the playground to get picked for the football team, and hope that he can pick up something from the ruins if the LibDem / Tory negotiations fall apart. Hardly Statesman-like!

  • Comment number 56.

    All THREE main party leaders failed dismally compared to what their respective parties might reasonably have expected.

    Brown's failure was the most predicable and long-awaited. Of the 3, he probably did the least badly.
    Clegg was real 'boom and bust' but he failed to deliver on seats, even if, by the incompetence elsewhere, he has managed to get closer to power than any other LD leader.
    Camera-on failed most spectacularly and most comprehensively and he's likely to be ruthlessly removed asap by his party; any half-competent leader would be in power by 100 seats, given labour's failures. It boils down to the pathetic Osborne and his gutless dithering last Conference season over the EU Referendum. A simple statement 'Brown can sign whatever he likes: it does not, and cannot, bind any future UK Govt to obey it. We promised a referendum on the EU and we will deliver a referendum on the EU.' That would have won him all the UKIP-lost seats - and another dozen or so on top.

    The Celtic parties failed to gain anything at all - and Scotland is entirely unchanged from a month ago, so the near-expulsion of Scotland from mainstream UK politics will not long be delayed (similar to N.I.). 'Slippery' Salmond has achieved nothing but self-publicity.

    The BNP lost, but can reasonably claim that extensive jerry-mandering within the East End has ensured their power-base in SE London has been diluted and so destroyed; the use of selected Council tenants to change the ethnic mix in some wards is well documented. I disapprove strongly, though I understand the well-meant motives behind it.

    The Green Party were the only winners. Bonkers policies, but good luck to them.

    UKIP lost most spectacularly in that, because they stood, the pro-EU LD candidate won in around 15 seats in the countryside where a Tory would otherwise have won. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

    Whatever 'coalition' talks finally produce, we're to be led for a few months, at least, by a failed party leader/Prime Minister, with absolutely NO authority within his own party, let alone within the UK and abroad.
    Hardly a recipe for a successful Premiership and for the economic decisions we MUST make - asap.

  • Comment number 57.

    Surely it is vital now that Parliament is recalled and a ballot be called:

    A confidence vote on David Cameron. There is no other confidence vote to be had as Brown is an unelected PM who has lost an election and Clegg does not have sufficient seats/votes to being agiven a vote of confidence.

    If the answer is 'No' then call an immediate and further general election with multiple referendum questions contained in the ballot paper. If you who want Independence - then goodbye and 'pay for yourselves' - the sooner the better!

    This is surely the quickest and most reliable way to resolve the current political impasse without doing serious long term damage to the UK, its institutions, economy and everything and everybody to do with the UK.

    Get them MP's back and get them working and sort themselves out with a 'free vote' in the HoC - anonymous voting probably better for an accurate vote?

  • Comment number 58.

    What is really bothering me is the inherent bias by the BBC whilst it tries through that facial gymnast of a speculator, Laura Kunesberg(???)to promote discord and upheaval in the face or realism. Typical BBC.

  • Comment number 59.

    #14 if you're going to make a remark like that you should begin by learning the spelling of "apostrophe".

    If Clegg makes a deal with the Tories, then he will have to abandon many of his principles and make a nonsense of his claims that he was going to fight for his four main policy priorities. If he makes a deal with Labour, the two parties together won't have a majority (because of our silly non-proportional voting system) so it will be weak and will not be perceived to be legitimate.

    I think this makes any kind of formal coalition impossible for him. Instead, he should say that he does not think Gordon Brown can possibly stay on as Prime Minister, but that Cameron does not have a full mandate to press through a complete Tory economic program (since the majority of the country voted against it). And then he should pledge to act responsibly and not bring down the government as long as Cameron agrees not to overstep the limit and try to push through a narrow Tory agenda.

    In that way, we would end up with a (mostly) Tory administration but not one that could do whateve it liked. And that, it seems to me, is exactly what the electorate has asked for.

  • Comment number 60.

    does anybody really beleive that Clegg and the LibDems will tacitly sit idly by to allow Cameron to introduce his immediate "austerity" budget....surely this was one of the massive differentiations between the parties during the televised debates, namely Labour and the Libs would not make radical cuts this fiscal year whereas the Tory hounds were salivating in the blocks to get their teeth into the "bloated public sector" and do you think the Tory grass roots will allow Cameron to introduce a diluted, wet sop of a budget dictated by the centre-left LibDems...if this nation wants real, progressive change and not a return to the tupthumping public sector culling, xenophobic, eurosceptic, every man for himself days of the 1980s & 1990s then a Lib/Lab pact is the best way ahead.....

    p.s. if the LibDems prop up Cameron, I just cannot wait to see what happens when Cameron(as he promised) looks to reverse the hunting ban...can't see the LibDems letting this one through...what will Dave and his other 18 Etonian MP mates think of that

  • Comment number 61.

    There is a danger in the Libs being seen to be Cameron's gopher and its simple: join with the Tories and be forever associated with the carnage they will want to bring on public services. It'll finish both of them for a generation. It will also finish the Libs in Scotland because let's face it where else are they going to target.

  • Comment number 62.

    The British electorate have decided.
    The Tories did worse than expected because the British public don't trust them enough. The Liberal Democrat bubble burst, and Labour held on to far more than perhaps they deserved.
    I am shocked that the Tories managed to squander a 20 point poll lead despite the support of the majority of the British Press.
    I hope that me prediction of a damaging split in the LD's as per my previous posting doesn't come to fruition.
    general electon within a few months I think and perhaps this time we'll be given more information on policies rather than having to see if Slick Dave is too greasy, Clegg is all Gas and no Gaiters and Gordon is too dour, as he said on GMTV he has a great face for radio.

  • Comment number 63.

    i think the election results have really shown how unfair our electoral system is, seeing as the country is facing so many severe problems why dont the 3 main parties for a government of national unity until we are through this crisis.

  • Comment number 64.

    The Tories and Lib Dems should try to make this thing work. Labour have had their chance and have failed. Britian is Greece waiting to happen at the moment. The Tories achieved the most votes, therefore should be given the chance to govern. Labour and the Lib Dems lost and if they formed a coalition it would end up with Britain being run by losers. I have read some Lib Dem voters on this board throw their toys out of the pram about Clegg and Cameron joining forces and they need to get real. The public massively rejected them in this election, so they are clearly doing something wrong. Maybe a change of direction is whats needed for them. I don't agree with a lot of the of what the Lib Dems stand for, but the Tories are not right about everything either, together if they really tried, could have chance of making this thing work. If not bring on another 5 years of Labour failure!!!

  • Comment number 65.

    Electoral reform is needed and that means ending the Labour benefits and tax credit corruption bribery that keeps them in power and distorts the political maps of Britain.

    Reform the 'benefits bribery' and thorough reform of our electoral systems will have been achieved.

  • Comment number 66.

    All of us whose constituencies returned either Conservative or Liberal Democrat MPs on Thursday now need to decide if WE want a Conservative-LibDem alliance... and instruct our brand-new MPs accordingly.

    It is NOT up to the politicians to decide behind closed doors what they are going to do. They are our hirelings, and it is up to us to instruct them as to what we want them to do.

  • Comment number 67.


    Agree entirely Graham, its time England grew up and and started to take some responsibility for its own decisions for its own services. Doubt you would find many in the other UK nations who would disgree with you.

  • Comment number 68.

    As things stand Gordon Brown must stay as PM until agreement is reached as to how things progress - to do otherwise would be irresposnible in terms of the country.

    In terms of the result, surely it must be a Con minority government - no way a coalition with LD can work, they are just too different. The only plausible coalition, Lab-LD, can't go ahead due to lack of seats.

    There appears to be the usual brainless chat about impact of Scottish vote. This is a UK election, everyone's vote counts. England as a whole went Tory, but this is principally due to the South and this time the Midlands, so lets not pretend that England is some kind of block vote.

    Personally I hate the idea of Tories in power and Cameron as PM, but the Tories have the most seats and have stopped Lab/LD combination so they should be given a shot at the title. Suspect rabid right wingers and our malicious media will be given their way and GB will leave Downing St by close of play Monday latest.

  • Comment number 69.

    Mr Cameron, Mr Brown, Mr Clegg,

    Couple of questions for you:

    a) What's the best thing to do for your party?

    b) What's the best thing to do for the country?

    If you tried to answer question a) then you are not the right person to answer quaestion b)

  • Comment number 70.

    The Tories to a large extent only gained seats and a democratic mandate in England and should now seek to embed their position by creating an English Parliament and speaking for England.

    Under the Barnett formula the other three nations were given far too much of England's tax revenues and they should now expect to bear the brunt of necessary public spending cuts.

    If the voters of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot abide this fair but tough public spending outlook, and thereby do not wish to be part of the UK anymore, then they should support their own independence campaigns.

    England will better prosper on her own in any event.

  • Comment number 71.

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

  • Comment number 72.

    I think the Tories need to look at Cameron in a new way especially if he fails to form a government. This was their best chance of power: an unpopular prime minister and govern ment and an economy in a poor state. But he misses the open goal. I think it will be dreadful for Clegg to prop up the Tories. He has an historic moment to change our poor electoral sysytem. Remember over 50% of the electorate DONT want the Tories. He should deal with Labour.

  • Comment number 73.

    This is great - real politics for a change rather than the "winner takes all, do what I like" arrogance we've had from Thatcher, Blair and others in the past.

    64% voted against Cameron, 71% voted against Brown and 77% voted against Clegg. These are pretty big majorities and democracy should be about listening to the people. Taking time and compromising may be anethema to most politicians and the London- based media, but it is what people want.

  • Comment number 74.

    44 Moderated
    'Squatting' is a criminal offence in Scotland?
    Indeed, England does need its own Parliament

  • Comment number 75.

    PR in this country would get us away from the winner takes all archaic/anachronised Victorian steam powered system we currently have...whereby it is a choice between the inward looking, Little England, bring back the birch and work houses, gunboat diplomacy of the "I'm all right jack" support the wealthy Tory party and the slightly softer centre right/centre left party with a conscience, Labour party...for goodness sake we are supposed to be a 21st century nation hampered by dusty, crumbling Victorian albatrosses that the Tory party and their fear of change members continue to prop up...the Tories know any radical change to the electoral system will result in the death knell for the Conservatives and Conservatism for ever, whereas this will not necessarily be the case for the Labour party

  • Comment number 76.

    Gordon should just resign. I can understand why he hasn't, nothing is certain. But we don't want a second term of Brown, unelected the first time, unelected the second time? that's crazy!

  • Comment number 77.

    this is a great oppurtunity to get a young dynamic goverment, if you take all the centre leaning lib dems and the centre right tories you may have a bigger number of seats covered ,than the tories by themselves? let the far right and the lefty libs fight in the corner,gen x is here.

  • Comment number 78.

    If Clegg gets into bed with the tories he shows he has no principles
    If Cameron gets into bed with Clegg he shows the same.

    Cameron has spent the last month saying what a disaster a hung parliment would be and that Clegg would ruin the country, then he starts his statement angling to be PM with "I would like to offer" what a blatent lie! Like? No, HAVE NO CHOICE would have been a better phrase, and more honest!

    Tory sources have tried to point out areas of agreement, so far the have pointed out 2 to 3 policies! Thats nothing! And we all know what Cameron said about PR a few weeks ago "it will lead to another hung parliment, and another and another" And he doesn't like hung parliments and all he's offering is a talking shop and to implement 3 policies they allready agree on? Oh and maybe a few jobs with bigger saleries for a few lib dems!

    The only way out of this mess is a government of national unity

    Cameron needs to offer coalition with labor on the condition that Gordon Brown resigns and Cameron is PM (much as I don't want him to be), parlimentry business would only be defict reduction (no new spending programs), Afganistan and reform of westminster/voting. On 2 of these 3 issues their respective policies agree about 80-90%. That is a lot of work that could be done on cutting the deficit or "making a start" as Cameron terms it.

    Said government would be for 1 year, after which we have another election.

    Besides the obvious benifit that a lot of useful stuff would get done, and that a lot of the tory's tax-cuts for the rich and hikes for the poor wouldn't, we would have an election where the electorate would know that the cuts were agreed by both parties and so they wouldn't just take their displeasure out on the tories.

    If the tories go into bed with the Lib dems, it'll all end in tears within 2 years, the tories will take the blame, an election will have to be called and the tories will loose masivly and the lib dems will loose a bit (handing power back to labour) because they'll disliked by everyone their cuts will have affected.

    Coalition with Labour is not only in the best interests of the country, but in the best interests of the Conservative and Labour partys. All that needs to happen is Cameron and Brown need to swallow some pride and do what's best for the country.

    My opinion - Fat chance!

  • Comment number 79.

    I am a Labour supporter all my Adult Life. I feel we performed better with the electorate than I anticipated. I honestly feel it is time for the Party to move on and rebuild under David Milliband now. If we can stabilise under a fresh young leader then I reckon a year or two at the most of a David Cameron/Nick Clegg love in will be enough for the British public to see through the tory house of cards.

  • Comment number 80.

    David Cameron would be insane to publicly state (pretend to have) a commitment to PR. It is an enormously complicated issue, involving many factors over which there are disagreements (sometimes passionate) of fact and opinion. Then there are related issues that would have to be dealt with so that PR did not cause operational and/or rational contradictions : an elected second chamber and its powers (executive and legislative-related); fixed term parliaments and formation of new administrations; the role of Scottish and Welsh MPs at Westminster; campaign finance; whipping and party discipline; candidate selection. Not to mention the hot potato issues of fairness in dealing with legitimately elected representatives of legal but extreme or deeply unpopular groups. Any leader who quickly and unequivocally endorsed electoral reform as part of a political gambit would be cynical and irresponsible. Of course, we know Mr Brown is both of those things. Let us not judge Mr Cameron negatively because he refuses to be.
    New forms of election and representation are needed to modernise not just the electoral system itself, but many other vital elements of political process. Considering them, getting agreement to them and bringing them into effect calls for calm statesmanship - especially against the background of gathering economic crisis. Whole parties and the country have to be involved and acquire informed understanding of new and often technical issues. (Mr Brown clealy couldn't give a damn about this). It is unrealistic to ask leaders to commit party suicide, but it would further erode parliamentary legitimacy simply to adopt reforms that are intended to preserve as much as possible of the party status quo. (More reasons to treat Gordon Brown's sudden conversion to PR with contempt and reject his crude efforts at bribery).
    If a broad general relationship of Conservative/Lib Dem collaboration and trust can be established, it would enable the issue to be actively explored (and not kicked into the long grass as many -- with good reason -- fear; nor pursued just in order to fail as in Mr Brown's plans). If Mr Cameron proves unwilling to then make progress, or the Conservative Party proves resistant to reasonable proposals, the Lib Dems could leave with good grace, and as fair a chance of success at the next election as they could hope for, having put the country first in enabling a new government to be formed and get to work, and tried (but failed) to get a moderate, carefully considered reform to the electoral system everybody that knows (and David Cameron must surely know) cannot be defended as it is now.
    It is essential to recognise that the demand for PR is part of the Lib Dem political strategy **within the FPTP system**. The minute there is a real possibility that it could be adopted, everything changes, because they would be no more certain to benefit from it than Conservatives or Labour. At present the Lib Dems offer a permanent safe alternative/protest vote that can be used by voters to apply pressure from within the system. Under almost any PR system that disappears. People are free to choose any alternative to the main parties - and many will ignore the Lib Dems and support nationalist, single-issue, and extreme/fringe parties and groupings. The Lib Dems will be subject to the same forces pulling parties apart and restructuring them around clearer points on the ideological spectrum; separating national and local party organisations; challenging their economic ability to compete continuously, often with new and suddenly popular parties; maintaining their memberships and activist bases in a world with so many more options. It will be like the impact of cable and satellite TV on the BBC andf ITV. PR will not just take the current distributions and make them "fair" - it will usher in a completely new political world. David Cameron is right to be cautious, but that could be the basis for a very productive, honest series of changes. The one thing we don't want is more of the Brown-Mandelson power-grabbing mendacity. Anyone who longs for progress surely longs to see Nick Clegg and David Cameron establish the framework for setting out to steadily and responsibly give British people a RESPONSIVE and PREDICTABLE political system they can understand and use. PR is not an end in itself. It is one of the technical means to achieving that real end.

  • Comment number 81.

    Give Scotland independence and then the Tories can govern England and Wales. Better still, give Wales independence as well. Then we can have a properly governed England. We don't need Wales or Scotland - they are just a drain on our resources. England has voted for and wants a Tory govenment and that's what we should get.

  • Comment number 82.

    Time for change? meaning: political, electoral and social reform. Only the Lib Dems could ever have provided the catalyst and they like all the other minority parties had every reason to wish for it: because they could never find a way to break the two party stranglehold that has bedevilled us for almost a century. Well, the moment has come and they must stick to their mandate in their negotiations. The tories used change as a banner for their campaign but it was a vacuous definition: they meant a change from Labour and nothing much more profound than that! They don't want the sort of change that would compromise their position of influence over the entire country. The meaning of the word, 'Conservative' hardly bodes well for reform. They would continue with a system of politics that would not inspire common people to get involved. I would like to think that the reason for a good turnout this time was partly to do with the majority wishing for some radical changes; in which case the reason that more did not vote for Lib Dems was owing to strategy than voting from the heart as Clegg put it. Clearly the Lib Dems were never going to win the election so one need not have worried about their policies - the best that could ever have been achieved is hung parliament in which the other parties would have to bargain with the Lib Dems. This is exactly the result we got whether the majority intended it to be the case or not. Great! Now I hope the Lib Dems will not renague on their promises. They must drive a hard bargain with the tories - and they are in a position to do so. For God's sake, let's see some reform around here so we can all get on with something better.

  • Comment number 83.

    In a sense, Clegg and Lib Dem have created this situation themselves. Overconfidence and lack of resources for all out victory. Their attempt to challenge Labour to become the second biggest party, not only gain them few seats but about cost losing seats. Weakening Labour only meant no majority could be form with a Lab-Lib Dem coalition. They should have concentrated in challenging the Tories instead. All these media hype and Cleggomania have clouded their judgment. If you look at their budget, they simply did not have the resources to complete with the two major parties. But then again I am speaking from hindsight. Right now they should simultaneous engaging both the Tories, Labour & Nationalist. A Lab-LibDem-SNP-PC coalition would definitely be more beneficial to them than a Con-LibDem coalition. A Lab-LibDem-SNP-PC coalition would definitely be doable. Many parties in Europe often stick deals with regionalists. The only barrier to this coalition would be the lack of political will to do by the Lib Dem. I fear the election result shock might once again cloud their judgment.

  • Comment number 84.

    Why are Labour spokespeople constantly remarking that the electorate voted for electoral reform ? Surely if the electorate were serious about reform then the parties promising reform would have been more popular than the party that was not promising change ?? The tory manifesto proved the most popular and must have precedent over others.

  • Comment number 85.

    Factually innacurate Nick.

    "a Lib-Lab coalition could only have a working majority in alliance with all the unionists and all the nationalists."

    In actual fact an alliance of Labour, Lib Dems, SDLP, PC and SNP would have enough for an overall majority without the need for an alliance with unionists as well - they would have 327 seats combined.

    And remember that the real target is not 326 as 1 MP is the speaker and 5 MP's are Sinn Fein that won't sit and so therefore the real target is around 322.

    An rainbow alliance as descibed above would have a working majority of around 5.

  • Comment number 86.

    I wish everybody on here who says the Conservative party won the election would be honest for once.....the finish line is 325 seats...then you win.....what we had yesterday is an 3000m steeplechase race, with the BNP/Independents not even hearing the gun, SNPs/Plaid/DUPs/SDLPs/Greens tripping at the first barrier...the LibDems losing one of their spikes at the 800m marker, leaving Labour and the Tories tussling upto the last 200m before Labour pull up with a pulled hamstring at the 200m to go mark..leaving the Tories with a clear run home...but horror of horrors....Cameron Kosgei trips over his flapping lace at the 100m mark and knocks himself unconscious....did the Tories of course they didn't..they simply got the furthest down the course..does this give them a mandat to govern...of course it doesn't....hence why they are desperately and pathetically attempting to enter a marriage of green card epic proportions with the LibDems

  • Comment number 87.

    Not only do you correctly highlight how the numbers work against a Lib-Lab deal, there is also the Brown factor. It was already common knowledge that there's no love lost between Brown and Clegg, but the BBC are now reporting that they have had an initial chat but it was less a discussion and more a "diatribe" from Brown. I think it's fairly safe to say that a Brown-Clegg coalition is a long-shot to say to the least.

    The idea of them doing a deal that involves installing a new Labour leader in #10 is also unthinkable. We've just been through a campaign that, rightly or wrongly, has focussed on the potential PM like no other before it. We may not have a presidential system but the electorate has a right to know who the prospective PMs are when casting their vote - it's one thing to install a new PM mid-term (e.g. Major & Brown in my lifetime) but to think they would tolerate a PM that wasn't an option on polling day being installed within weeks of the election is crazy.

    The last resort, a Tory minority government, would be faced with constant blocking in the house and fail to get anything substantial through at a time when strong government is essential. The markets would go berserk.

    So we're left with...

    1. A Lib-Con pact - unacceptable to the grass-roots.
    2. A Brown-Clegg deal - unacceptable to Clegg.
    3. A new Labour leader as PM - unacceptable to the electorate.
    4. A Tory minority government - unnacceptable to the markets.

    I'll see you at the ballot box in October...

  • Comment number 88.

    Finally... the sound of removal men moves closer; ready to wipe that arrogant smile off Brown's face.

  • Comment number 89.

    Oh the bleeding heart liberals!

    They keep bleating on about how proportional representation is the fair option.

    I agree that there should be a referendum on voting methods but I also believe that if the bloggers on this post truly understood PR they wouldn't support it.

    I am guessing the Labour spin machine is working over time!

    So lets put things into Labours perspective

    Conservative - 64% of the country don't want you
    Labour - 71% of the country don't want you
    Lib Dem - 77% of the country don't want you

    Knowing how ignorant some Labour voters are they will probably read this as meaning that 148% of the country voted against the Conservatives. Yes, they are that sad.

    So lets look this from a PR perspective.

    Conservatives would have secured 234 seats under PR
    Labour 188
    Lib Dem 150

    That means that 72 Constituencies that voted for a Conservative candidate would be denied the person they voted for.

    70 Constituencies that voted for Labour Candidates would be denied their representation and ... oooh look .... 93 extra Lib Dem candidates got a seat - Even though those constituencies preferred a different candidate.

    PR doesn't work unless you are voting for a party rather than an individual.

    When we get PR voting for a party, the candidates are selected by big committees and with no local input, meaning that a party can be 'adjusted' to suit the committees and not the voter.

    Plus - I know that our local candidate got in with a huge majority because of the enormous work she has done locally.

    Under PR - she could have lost her seat and out community would also lose out.

    But then it isn't about logic is it?

    This is about hate filled Labour supporters hating to lose and Lib Dem supporters crying into their milk because they are largely unloved at a local level.

    My Lib Dem representative lives in a completely different county some 60 miles from the constituency he was supposed to represent - I think we would all be a little upset if he secured a seat here because of PR!

  • Comment number 90.

    Comment 56 by happydadtoo - to say that Cameron (and specifying "Camera-on" betrays unpleasant prejudices on your behalf amongst what is a long list of very thought-provoking comments by the vast majority of contributors) failed the most spectacularly really is ridiculous. They won almost 50 seats more than the next best and, given the position he inherited, it cannot be termed in that way. Disappointing I would accept, though not half as disappointing as it must be for the Libs.

  • Comment number 91. This is a Lib Dems Together Link to an article of theirs. What do Lib Dem supporters and everyone else think of it?

  • Comment number 92.

    I just can't see a formal coalition between Tories and Lib Dems. The Lib Dems may be tempted by the offer of Cabinet posts but they'd be crazy to tie themselves in to the Conservative administration in a formal deal. It would alienate a lot of their natural support, and attract what is likely to be substantial disenchantment as the Tories tackle the economy - Cameron will become deeply unpopular quickly and this will rub off on the Lib Dems.

    It seems to me that PR is not going to be one of the outcomes of this election for two main reasons - one, no party is going to be able to push it through Parliament, and two, a referendum will probably reject it. So the Lib Dems would be better off sitting on the sidelines - the confidence and supply arrangement - with Cameron obliged to run a minority government. A deal with Labour doesn't even produce a Parliamentary majority and must be a no-hoper.

  • Comment number 93.

    Tim #11 - the Tories already have more seats (306) than they are entitled to given the number of votes they won (36.1% = 235 seats), so the system is still biased in the Tories' FAVOUR, not against them. It just happens to be biased in Labour's favour even more. But that's a reason to scrap the system, not fiddle with it!

  • Comment number 94.


    is is not obvious that any form of PR would create this shambles with the person who has lost the choosing who the PM would be.

    How can that be described as a fair system?

    The electorate have now been completely disenfranchised and power handed to the most reject man in the leadership race.

    This would happen every time with PR the people don't choose the Government the small fringe parties do.

    The BNP would have automatic seats and could be the king makers in a hung parliament. Does anyone think that this would be an acceptable outcome?

    The people can now see that PR creates chaos and we would be going to the polls every other year do you really want to go through this every other year FPTP needs fixing but PR would be turmoil

  • Comment number 95.

    GRAHAM LONDON@ 10-41.


    How you must enjoy your Slavery.

    They are laughing at you Son. In their Villas in the Carribean and on their yachts in Monaco.

  • Comment number 96.

    "getting into bed with the Conservatives who most Lib Dems grew up opposing"

    In Scotland many Lib' Dem's grew up opposing Labour. When, on the election to the "new" Scottish Parliament, the time for hard choices came they formed an effective coalition with Scottish Labour to push through a thorough and dynamic portfolio of change.

    (Of course this included a study into electoral reform - I think known as "The McIntosh Commission" - which led to a more representative voting system for local Government.)

  • Comment number 97.

    As a so-called proud democratic nation, surely we deserve a referendum on electoral reform to get the system that the majority of people want. If the outcome were a vote for the status quo, then at least it would be the nation's choice.

    Let's make every vote count.

  • Comment number 98.

    Britain is made up of England which subsidies:

    Scottish Greece
    Welsh Greece
    Irish Greece

    English Parliament please!

  • Comment number 99.

    However a government is assembled, everyone understands another election is likely within a year or so, during which time the economy is likely to worsen, and, as now in the USA, the new government is likely to be blamed.

    Joining the Conservatives offers LibDems two poisoned challices: no guaranteed electoral reform AND at least partial responsibility (by association) with a deteriorating economy.

    Common sense is to let the Tories go it alone; if they do well, they'll deserve a better victory next time; if they fail, they fall alone.

  • Comment number 100.

    What makes the LibDems supporters so sure they would win a referendum on changing FPTP? Presumably most Tory supporters would say no, so that's perhaps 35% of the electorate. Therefore if only a bit more than half of Labour supporters say no as well then it will be defeated. Why would Labour say no? Well, there has been no enthusiasm amongst Labour for 20 years, and many will see PR as ensuring that they will have to do deals with the LibDems and the minority parties at every election. Moreover LibDem supporters assume that PR is better than FPTP and that those who oppose it are simply acting out of self-interest, but whilst FPTP is not perfect, many believe that it is better than the alternatives, regardless of their political affiliations. Don't think therefore that PR is a done deal if you get your wish.


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