Friday, 7 May 2010
Here comes the coalition
You can speculate about what kind of sentient creature a population becomes when combined into an electorate in the way that entomologists speculate about the collective behaviour of swarming bees, or ants, or clouds of fruit flies.
This creature of the masses wanted to punish Gordon Brown – to continue his endgame – and it did. It wanted to break a two-party system which it saw as increasingly corrupt and self-serving, and perhaps to remind M.P.’s that in their origins they represented the people against the depredations of crown and court, and that now, all but sporting crown and coronet, the M.P.’s were acting as if they had inherited the roles of crown and court. The reminder was duly served, and despite the anticlimactic Lib Dem vote, I think the system has been broken.
Now what? Possibly –
1. Brown and Clegg go into alliance or coalition, the deal being electoral reform at the top of the agenda. As soon as it becomes expedient and publicly tolerable, Clegg detaches, brings down Brown, and a second general election transforms British parliamentary democracy.
2. Labour contrives to ditch Brown (notice that Lord Mandelson did not reject this possibility on the BBC this morning). Alan Johnson, maybe, succeeds to the premiership, and likewise unites with the Lib Dems, presenting a government that seems refreshed. I think this would narrow the space in which Clegg could manoeuvre. We’d still get some kind of PR, but the ensuing split would appear more cynical, and, for the Lib Dems, would be more hazardous.
3. Labour and the Lib Dems fail to get it together, and Cameron becomes PM of a minority government, resisting electoral reform. The SNP and Plaid Cymru (as they have promised to do) demand significant subsidies for Scotland and Wales in return for their votes. At a critical moment, Cameron declares this an intolerable burden on far more numerous English during a period of savage austerity; goes to the country; returns with an overall majority. But the strain this exerts on the Union would be severe, and the outcome, possibly, disintegration.
A long night, my friends. I’ve now voted in 10 UK general elections. This has turned out to be by far the most intriguing – and portentous.
Footnote, May 12: Prediction 4, it turns out, was the right one in the short term. Must have left it out by mistake...