From Alex and Jim, our eyes and ears in Westminster.
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.
Labour’s only chance of getting together with the Libs will be in six months or so, under a new leader. If the Tories fail at “governing in the national interest”, if they prove unpopular enough for Clegg to ditch, then a Lib-Lab coalition deal is back in play. That’s all Clegg has to scare the Tories with.
Speaking to ITV News, Lord Owen said that the Lib Dems should form a coalition with the Conservatives:
“There is no doubt that the Conservative Party have by quite a long way the strongest mandate. They haven’t got a mandate to govern on their own and that’s been despite them hammering at everybody against a hung parliament, they are landed with a hung parliament. I think that David Cameron is a realist and he knows too that Nick Clegg has said that the electorate will decide. Well the electorate have decided who have the strongest mandate and therefore there is no doubt that if David Cameron calls Nick Clegg they will talk and that’s right. I believe that will happen and I believe that’s right for the Liberal Democrats to respond.
“And I personally think that these two men must build up a trust to each other and decide that what is in the country’s interest facing this massive fiscal deficit is a coalition that will be dominated by the Tories because they are so large but nevertheless the Liberal Democrats could have a powerful influence. Vince Cable would be a natural to be a business secretary… Chancellor, foreign secretary and probably home secretary have to lie now with the Conservatives.”