On the face of it, the prospect of a working coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats seems about as likely as Stephen Hawking representing Britain in the 400m hurdles at the 2012 Olympics. But exceptional circumstances make for unusual bed partners. This was pre-ordained a couple of weeks ago when Nick Clegg stated that he would not be able to enter talks with a party that did not win the biggest share of the vote. He tried to backtrack on that in subsequent interviews but on pure point of principle he could not go straight into talks with a party and a Prime Minister who effectively lost their position of power.
So now he and his party are locked away, reading each other’s manifestos and using highlighter pens to identify what, if anything, they can both agree on. So far I expect it’s a very short list indeed.
If this unholy marriage is to go ahead then it has my blessing on the condition that Clegg stays true to his principles – he should settle for nothing less than an agreed referendum on electoral reform within the next year. First past the post creates strong governments in a two party system. It’s pretty plain that we do not have a true two party system anymore – we need an electoral process that better reflects the views of the electorate at large. The chaos of the last few days again underlines the need for a more formal written constitution – another subject that is close to the Lib Dem’s heart and not something they should compromise on.
Whatever settlement is reached, the union is probably doomed to fail and I would expect to see another election within a year. Conservatives and Liberals working together – it’s like cats and dogs getting married. My ideal scenario is another election within the year, producing a progressive pact between Labour (minus Gordon of course) and the Lib Dems.