Lib Dems Movin About
by Jerome Armstrong, Mon May 10, 2010 at 09:23:35 PM EDT
I've been way tied up with campaign work today to even notice till late that Gordon Brown is out!
It's been a remarkable day. Hearing a prime minister announce that he's going to resign is always a big story. But Gordon Brown's statement today was only one piece of the jigsaw, and perhaps not even the most important. What matters most is that this morning it looked as if the Tories and the Lib Dems were on the verge of forming a "confidence and supply" pact. Now it seems almost inevitable that the next government will be a coalition. But whether it will be a Tory/Lib Dem coalition or a Labour/Lib Dem coalition is anyone's guess.
So far, Nick Clegg has shown himself to be in total command of the situation in the UK. He was widely viewed at having lost clout due to the poor Lib Dem FTP showing (though overall LD's gained 1% more of the vote), and by this morning, the consensus seemed that he was about to buckle to the Conservatives. David Cameron has about thrown everything on the table, but by the evening, its pretty clear that the momentum had shifted to a progressive coalition:
For reference, here are the numbers.
There are 650 seats in the Commons. But there are five Sinn Féin MPs who do not take their seats, leaving 645 MPs. So to get a working majority you would need 323 votes.
There are 258 Labour MPs and 57 Lib Dem MPs. That makes 315. The SDLP (a sister party of Labour's) has three MPs and there is one MP who represents the Alliance (which is allied to the Lib Dems). If you add them, you get to 319. Plaid Cymru is in coalition with Labour in Wales. They've got three MPs, and if they join the total rises to 322. The SNP has also signalled its willingness to join a progressive pact of some kind, and its six MPs would take that total to 328. If the Greens' Caroline Lucas were to vote with this bloc, that would take you to 329.
The Tories have 306 seats. (One is the Speaker, but two Labour MPs – and another Tory – are likely to become deputy Speakers, and so they cancel each other out.) When the contest in Thirsk takes place, that is likely to rise to 307. If the Democratic Unionists (eight MPs) were to vote with the Tories (as they normally do), the Tory-DUP total would rise to 315.
Gordon Brown is right to say that the "progressives" could form a majority. But they would be dependent on several small parties and they would not have much of a cushion for when people started to rebel.
Tomorrow is D-day. Clegg is either going to have the rights of Cameron and the wingers first-born with a wacky Con-Lib schizo gov't or he's going to blaze a new trail with a progressive coalition alongside a new Labour leader. The choice seems easy.
[UPDATE] Labour has pulled out of talks with the Lib Dems, and now it looks like a Con-Lib coalition is going to happen?
The Evening Standard reports that Gordon Brown is set to resign tonight and allow David Cameron to become prime minister. The paper quotes a friend of Brown as saying: "The deal with Clegg was just not doable."
...The Labour leader's final desperate attempt to cling on to power with a Lib-Lab deal crumbled amid a rebellion on his own side and policy disagreements with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.
I expect that quite a few Lib Dems are going to revolt if the Con-Lib coalition happens. It could prove a boon for Labour if they are able to re-group and come out as the non-3rd Way voice of opposition. For Clegg, its going to divide his party ultimately, but with the Tories at 306-7 seats, it only needs less than 20 to stand by them to keep ahold the majority.
I'm hoping for another twist of events, but it looks like this is the direction.
[UPDATE] Seeing what's being reported-- that Lib Dems get a referendum on reforming the voting (which would greating improve their MP standing), Nick Clegg is Deputy PM, and 6 Cabinet posts-- looks great on paper. As for the issues, that remains to be seen. I think eventually we'll see a real strong divide happen with this Government, with the Lib Dems stopping some of the neo-Thatherism from happening (or one could hope).