Sunday, 9 May 2010

Nick Clegg's Dilemma

Is Nick Clegg about to do something very silly? I really do hope not.

People say he has a great opportunity. As I look at things, he seems to have a huge dilemma.

The single thing that the Liberal Democrats want is electoral reform, i.e. a voting method which more fairly reflects the votes cast by the electorate. I don’t think they are going to get any sort of meaningful commitment on the subject from the Conservatives. Therefore, whatever agreement or consensus the Tories and the Lib-Dems have on topics such as the economy, civil liberties, tax, reform of Parliament, etc., if there is not a commitment to a referendum on electoral reform, why would he make any sort of deal with David Cameron? The rank and file of his party will be most uncomfortable.

The trouble is that if the Lib-Dems turn the other way and try and arrive at a deal with Labour, then such a Labour/Lib-Dem alliance would need support from the SNP, Plaid Cymru, DUP, and the other very small parties in order to form a government. In this case, the Celtic representatives (SMP, Plaid, DUP) would demand such a price, almost certainly in cash, that such a deal would be unacceptable to the English. In such an alliance, who would be Prime Minister. Gordon Brown, who suffered a barely credible, last minute, conversion to the PR cause, seems to be unacceptable to the majority of the electorate and to many of his own MPs. They already seem to be looking for a new leader. A new Labour leader (Alan Johnson, David Milliband or Harriet Harman), who has not faced the electorate would generate considerable ill-will, and it is hardly credible that the Labour MPs or party would accept Nick Clegg himself.

What would I do? I think I’d call Brown’s bluff. OK, Gordon, you can stay as PM, I want Vince Cable to be Chancellor of the Exchequer, I want to be (say) Foreign Secretary, and Ed Balls is unacceptable in any ministerial role. We agree that in 6 months we will have a referendum on PR. If PR is accepted, there will be another election in May 2011 and you, Gordon, can fight for your role as Leader of the Labour Party before calling it. The Conservatives can go hang. They will have a huge internal spat about why they failed to win a majority in the 2010 election and are unlikely ever to be in a position to have a majority of MPs in the foreseeable future.

I wrote this post before reading this article from yesterday on the Guardian website. It isn't often that I find myself agreeing with the Guardian, but I do agree with this. It is even more eruditely explained by Andrew Rawnsley in today's Observer here, as he says in his last sentence, Nick Clegg is living the nightmare now..

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