Instant speculation, instantly out of date

What will happen after the election? If there’s a Lib-Lab majority, which seems likely, though not certain, Nick Clegg, among others, have a few unpleasant decisions ahead of him.

One unusual factor is that any coalition agreement or pact has to be voted on through several levels of the party. Exactly what qualifies as an agreement is a bit vague, however.

If the Tories would agree to PR, Clegg would most likely support them. They almost certainly won’t though. They’re an uncompromising lot and FPTP has served them very well.

Clegg will probably let Cameron through without a good deal on PR. I don’t actually think it’s sensible. (CF) I think Clegg may be savvy about election campaigns, but not about these sort of things. He’s not bloody minded enough. Tories getting a shot has become what’s expected, what’s supposed to happen. From a not-losing the-three day news cycle perspective it would make sense, and because people sort of expect a Tory minority, because the immediate reaction to a Labour-liberal deal would be negative. Never underestimate the feeble mindedness of anyone who isn’t actively evil.

If Clegg makes a less attractive deal, he risks getting overruled, so I reckon he’ll tolerate Cameron without any preconditions, to bypass the grassroots.

If there’s a Lib-Lab pact or actual coalition, the Tories will almost certainly get much high poll numbers fairly soon – the Lib Dems won’t be in opposition anymore, and the economy will still be crap. So if the Lib Dems lets them through with only a vague promise of PR, they’ll soon be in the position to say: “we dare you to vote us down”. And there’s a good chance the grass roots will nix it. The Lib Dems will do very badly in the next election then, whether it’s early or in 2015.

But will Labour offer a good deal? Even if a majority of them wants to, will the leadership be unified enough to offer something some figures are strongly against, with no one in charge and election campaigns starting (for both leader and deputy)?

If both larger parties are uncompromising, Clegg will have no less than six, maybe seven shit sandwiches to choose from. A pact with Labour, or with the Tories. Letting either of them in without ANY deal, to bypass the grassroots. Immediate early elections, which doesn’t only risk a Tory majority, but global economic meltdown (or so people will say). Or outside chance, a national unity gov’t. I think he may then choose what may be the shittiest shit sandwich.

Having said all that, I think the combined odds of a Lib-Lab pact or toleration, either now or somewhat later after some unpleasant twists and turns, is slightly higher than a long term Tory gov’t.
Of course, in thinking about the future we should also consider the risk of the economy imploding because of political uncertainty, even if we get the in my opinion lesser evil in the cabinet.

Update: If Clegg lets Cameron through and then the next Labour leader and Clegg wants to do a deal, could they avoid a new election? My understanding is now that Clegg and the next Labour leader could avoid a new election. This would make letting Cameron in more likely and a bit less irrational. If Cameron goes down to no confidence and doesn’t see it coming soon enough to call a new election, the leader of the opposition gets a shot at forming a government.

Thanks to Ajay, Alex and Keir for their input.

7 thoughts on “Instant speculation, instantly out of date

  1. Given the historical background (Lib-Lab pact, merger with the Labour-breakaway SDP, talk of coalition with Labour at ’97 election) any move of the Lib-Dems towards labour in defiance of the election numbers would risk forfeiting the Lib-Dem’s “honest broker” image and branding the Lib-Dems as “Labour Lite” for a generation.

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  3. Two things:

    1. I assume that Clegg is very publicly negotiating with Cameron first because of the effect Baz talks of. When those negotiations fail, he can, for the sake of the country, negotiate with Labour.

    2. If a Conservative minority government survives the Queen’s speech, then it’s likely it will survive until next Spring, when it will almost certainly fall over Osborne’s budget, which will either contain massive cuts which the other parties cannot support, or imply a massive deficit which the other parties cannot support (I assume that tax increases would not be part of it). If it falls over the budget, surely there will be an election. The other parties will want one.

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