Tuesday, 11 May 2010

What's going on?

Four days after last Thursday's election resulted in a 'hung parliament', and the talks continue. I'm being stopped in the street, asked by email, picking up comments on Facebook and elsewhere, by people wondering what the outcome will be.

In shock news: I don't know.

This is a difficult situation for the Liberal Democrats. As pundit Olly Grender put it pithily on Twitter: "It's official - we are now in formal conversations with a 'rock' and a 'hard place'".

Though not the only important discussion point on the table, a commitment to serious moves on electoral reform will be a sticking point for the vast majority of Liberal Democrats.

There are some in Labour and the media who are dangling the possibility of some 'progressive coalition' (Lib Dems plus Labour plus nationalists plus Green) that will deliver a fair voting system. They seem to have overlooked two facts: firstly, the numbers for such a coalition barely stack up and would be very vulnerable as a working government; and secondly and more importantly, many Labour MPs in safe seats - not to mention many of their defeated candidates - don't want a fair voting system anyway and would vote against it.

Whatever the outcome, two things are clear. Firstly, Thursday's 'hung parliament' result hasn't caused a run on the pound, the collapse of the economy, or anything else that Kenneth Clarke and other scaremongering Conservatives were shrieking about during the election campaign. Other countries around the world, including some of the most economically successful, have parliaments with no one party in charge, and have done for years. It's grown-up politics, and it's not a bad thing for politicians to talk to one another.

Secondly, I'm very pleased to know that - unlike in any other party - as a Liberal Democrat member and candidate, I could yet have a direct say in the outcome. It's not up to Nick Clegg, or even Liberal Democrat MPs, to come to a deal with one party or another. Under our constitution, 75 per cent of Liberal Democrat MPs and 75 per cent of our Federal Executive (the party's governing committee) have to agree to any outcome from these discussions. If that doesn't happen, there has to be a special conference, at which 75 per cent of our voting conference representatives would have to agree. And failing that, there would be a ballot of all Liberal Democrat members. Other parties envy us the extent of our internal party democracy, and that's yet another reason to be proud to be a Liberal Democrat.

1 comment:

  1. Great article - thank you! (I was linked to it by @HelenDuffett on Twitter)

    james (@syzygy)