Daily Archives: May 7, 2010

Our expert election panel of Miranda Green, Charles Lewington and Matthew Taylor convened for the last time on Friday afternoon to unpack the campaign and provide insight into the hung parliament. Special commendation to Miranda Green, whose election prediction throughout the course of the campaign have been closest to the result.

 

So the election has left us in the middle section of a Jane Austen novel. Gruff Gordon and Dashing Dave are competing for the affections of Nubile Nick, a comely young thing, sadly living in somewhat reduced circumstances. Much of his estate is now entailed but by gosh he’s full of brio. And we don’t yet know if Nick is the “consent and supply” type.

But instead of secret billets-doux and private meetings, we are seeing the negotiations played out in public with all emotion laid bare rather than remaining satisfyingly buttoned-up. Of course if this were an Austen romance, we know the Lib Dem leader would end up choosing the gruff stand-offish suitor, having been led a merry and disappointing dance by the more polished Conservative leader. 

From Alex Barker:
Watch the mousetrap:
What an offer from Cameron. But I suspect LIb Dems have been bullied for too long to fall for such blandishments. There’s a growing sense that the Cameron offer is little more than a “mousetrap”. When the Lib Dems sit down to some serious talks on a coalition, Cameron will just accuse them of being difficult in order to strengthen his case for going it alone. The electoral reform concession was described to me by one Lib Dem as “total, unadulterated cynicism”. If Cam is serious, he’ll have a job on his hands winning the trust of these Lib Dems MPs, let alone the beardies in the party.

From Jim Pickard:
Know your history:
Apparently a commission into electoral reform was offered by Heath to the Lib Dems in 1974 and it was turned down; at least that is being reported on Left Foot Forward

Bad news for Nick Griffin’s far right British National Party as it was trounced in its strongholds of Barking, Stoke and Burnley. This was despite the troubling news that the openly anti-Islam party has lifted its number of votes to more than 500,000 nationally, or about 2 per cent of the vote – up from just 192,000 in 2005.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that the BNP seems to be picking up most of its support in areas where it is not campaigning heavily and where its leaders do not put in an appearance. There are clearly big concerns about immigration in white working class neigbourhoods, which explains the jump in the national vote. However, as soon as Mr Griffin and his chums show up on the doorstep, support plummets. James Bethell of Nothing British about the BNP, which campaigns against the group, says this is because voters are distinctly unimpressed when they get to grill Mr Griffin and the others directly about their policies on the economy or other non-immigration issues. 

Helen Warrell

With Jim and Alex still on frontline duties, Helen Warrell and Johanna Kassel, who have helped steer the FT’s online election coverage, will keep you up-to-date with the most recent results.

And on that note, we’ve heard from all three leaders and more pundits than we can shake a stick at. So 18 hours and thousands of words later, we are going to sign off from the live blogging. We will continue to update the blog as the final results come in and if there is any breaking news. But thanks for joining us and make sure to watch the Westminster blog and FT.com for all the latest news and developments over the weekend.

4.05 HW: Tory reactions on Cameron’s statement are surprisingly slow to emerge by Peter Hoskin on Spectator Coffee House is surprised that Cameron has gone so far in his advances towards the Lib Dems and is impressed by the Tory leader’s “clarity” in setting out the areas where he isn’t willing to compromise with Nick Clegg – namely Europe, cutting the deficit and immgration. 

With Jim and Alex still on frontline duties, Helen Warrell and Johanna Kassel, who have helped steer the FT’s online election coverage, will keep you up-to-date with the most recent results.

Jim Pickard says:

Brown has dug his heels in, effectively saying: the ball is in your court. It’s now up to Cameron and Clegg to make a deal – or fail. Labour still believe that the Lib Dems are philosophically closer to them than to David Cameron and therefore the initial talks could fail. I’m not sure that’s right. ‘Orange book’ modernisers such as David Laws and Nick Clegg are free market liberals as opposed to the sandals-lentils types.

Meanwhile Charlie Whelan is already rehearsing the justification for a Lib-Lab pact if Clegg-Cameron discussions founder. The two ‘progressive’ parties won 53 per cent of the vote, he points out.

Snap analysis from Robert Shrimsley:

Oh my God, it’s like Friday the 13th. You think he’s finally been killed off and then up he pops again brandishing – if not a machete, then an even larger and sharper offer to keep himself in power. He’s just recorded a result barely better than Michael Foot’s but he is not giving in.

It has been a morning of increasingly naked offers to the Lib Dems but now with Gordon Brown’s statement in Downing Street and offer of “immediate legislation” on electoral reform the prime minister is making one last desperate pitch to the Lib Dems not to do the deal with David Cameron. This is a direct appeal over Nick Clegg’s head to the other leading Lib Dems, effectively saying “look the deal is here on the table – don’t let this man who’s already cocked up the election for you pass up your best ever chance of laying your hands on the holy grail of voting reform”.

On the other hand – it s a bit grubby. The case for electoral reform may well have been made but it is hardly the first priority for the next government requiring immediate legislation. Mr Brown is still fighting for his life and who knows how many more times he will have to be killed off before he gives up.

Key quotes:

“For my part, I must make clear I would be willing to see any of the party leaders … Clearly if the discussions between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg come to nothing then I would be prepared to meet with Mr Clegg”

“I understand that people do not like the uncertainty, but we live in a parliamentary democracy … and it’s our responsibility now to make it work for the national good” 

From Alex and Jim, our eyes and ears in Westminster.

Alex says:

Just emerging from Lib Dem world. There are many interpretations of Clegg’s remarks. But, as Robert has written, it’s safe to say that he’s telling Gordon Brown to pack his bags.

There is some wriggle room in the statement on electoral reform. But Labour should not hold their breath. Most Clegg allies realise that the electoral maths make a deal with Labour — at least within the next six months or so – virtually impossible. Cameron will be given the first crack at governing — it is just a matter of sorting out the details.

How close will co-operation be? Will it be anything more than support on a bill by bill, issue by issue basis? What needs to be done to calm the markets … etc

Clegg’s hand on pushing for electoral reform is significantly weakened by his poor election showing. So while they won’t rule out a deal with Labour, it will mainly be to strengthen their position with the Tories. An AV referendum is probably out of the question. But the Tories could offer up some other concessions: cutting the number of (Labour) MPs, recall elections, and even fixed term parliaments. 

From the FT:
Clegg gives Cameron shot at premiership
Cameron ponders a hesitant vote for change – Philip Stephens
UK set to become part of Europe’s coalition landscape
Has anyone heard what the people said? - Matthew Engel
Deficit to dominate new team’s agenda - Chris Giles
Hung parliament casts shadow over markets

FT Videos:
Impact of hung parliament – Chris Giles, economics editor
Cameron as PM likely outcome – Robert Shrimsley, Armchair election writer
UK market turns to US after indecisive poll – David Oakley
Result scares markets – Michael Saunders, senior economist at Citi
Gilts vulnerable - Mark Schofiled, global head of interest rate strategy at Citi 

So after a long night which rewarded those like me who stuck with it all the way through by delivering almost exactly the result predicted by the exit polls at 10pm, we now know that Nick Clegg will give David Cameron the first shot at forming a government.

Clegg’s decision to all but offer the keys to Number 10 to David Cameron is very interesting indeed. The Liberal Democrat leader must be bitterly disappointed this morning – in the end it was almost as if the debates that projected him to the electoral stratosphere never happened. He woke up and it was all a dream, which made it far harder for him to swagger around playing kingmaker. However, the decision effectively to cut Gordon Brown off at the knees so early is a surprising tactical move. 

Helen Warrell

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Helen Warrell, who has helped steer the FT’s online election coveage, will man this blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of the unfolding result.

12.05: As the clock has struck noon, we are going to take a 10-minute rest. In the meantime, Robert Shrimsley, writer of the armchair election, has written a post, which will appear above very shortly.  We will be back soon…

11.59 HW: An ongoing tussle on electoral reform as both major parties continue to woo the Lib Dems: Charlie Whelan, former press secretary to Gordon Brown, says he is “sure” that Labour will offer the Lib Dems proportional representation as an incentive to form a Lib-Lab coalition. Meanwhile Conservative sources tell the BBC that Cameron “hasn’t ruled out” the possibility of some sort of electoral reform.

11.51: Jim’s headline of the day goes to The Sun: “Right Wing Brings Down Ukip”. Let’s hope Nigel Farrage is enjoying the joke as much as everyone else… 

Kiran Stacey

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, will man this live blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of election night here.

The page should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer for those reading on a mobile.

10.03 KS: Right everybody, thanks for your company, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Not sure how much further we are than we were last night, but we’ve had fun getting there! I’m about to hand over to Helen Warrell, who is going to take over the blog.

But before I go, a quick and final spanner in the works: Peter Hain, Peter Mandelson and fascinatingly, the Lib Dems’ Simon Hughes, all seem to be suggesting Brown could stay on to negotiate a Lib-Lab pact. It would be an amazing twist if he did. Nick Clegg is due to make a statement at 10.30. It will be one of his most important.

And on that uncertain note, I bid you good morning.

9.56 KS: Thanks for your support everyone. Mergito, the effects of the coffee are beginning to wear off, so soon I will be shutting it down and we’ll keep the blog going with fresh individual posts during the day. Anything anyone wants to know before we go? Speak now or forever hold your peace.

9.49 KS: Of the seats that are left to count, there are some serious battles left to decide. In Brent, Sarah Teather and Dawn Butler are fighting it out. Both are currently sitting MPs serving in different constituencies, and the BBC is reporting the Lib Dem camp is looking the happier. 

Kiran Stacey

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, will man this live blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of election night here.

The page should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer for those reading on a mobile.

8.01 KS: This post is entitled “The home stretch?” I’m glad I included that question mark, because right now I am going to close this post down and open a new one. If you’re still with us or just joining us this morning, please stay with the Westminster Blog – the new post will be up in a jiffy.

7.52 KS: Whatever you think of Mandelson, he is a joy to watch. He so gently bats away questioning by Jeremy Paxman and Nick Robinson that they can only laugh helplessly. “I am not ruling anything out or anything in, quite deliberately, Jeremy,” he says soothingly to attempts to get him to spell out what might happen in a hung parliament. When Nick Robinson suggests some predictions of his own, he says, “I love and respect Nick Robinson. But he will always be the first out of the trap to draw some conclusions.”

And what of constitutional historian Vernon Bogdanor, who also engaged in some speculation? Mandelson says simply, “Vernon is a very wise man with many historical insights.” End of interview. Beautifully done.

7.49 KS: Peter Mandelson tells Paxman there are no talks yet between Labour and the Lib Dems. He might be right – even politicians need to rest sometimes after all. But it could be significant that while waiting for the count, Nick Clegg spent a long, long time locked away in a room well away from any reporters.

7.39 KS: Michael Gove has proved one of the quickest interviewees around during this entire campaign, although opinion is divided on whether he comes across as smart or smug. He came up with a great back-handed compliment to John Humphrys a few days ago, praising him for asking “elegant questions”. He’s proving it again tonight, batting away questions about parliamentary deals by telling David Dimbleby:

It’s because I have a quaint attachment to this thing called democracy that I want to wait to see who has won what seats.