Friday, 7 May 2010

Leaders into temptation

Who'd be a party leader right now? They're all facing some very difficult choices and some very big risks. Who will have the stones, the luck and the chutzpah to make it through?

i-Dave came achingly close and turned in what you have to acknowledge is a good set of results. But the gap between the final position and power is no trivial one. He's made an intriguing offer to the LibDems - but can he carry his party with him? Many of them will find it hard to give anything away to a party they will see as a distant runner-up and with - on the face of their stated policies - far more in common with Labour than with the Tories. Some Conservatives will also be wondering whether Dave did in fact run the best campaign possible? Gratitude is a thin veneer in politics and although to my mind one of the triumphs of the Conservative campaign was to put the party across as unified, we all know that can change very rapidly.

The Cleggster succeeded personally in his constituency but Clegg-mania seems to have done nothing for his party's position - and may even have been counterproductive. So there will be a lot of disappointment and potentially dangerous feelings among his party. Because of the LibDem constitution, the leader is strictly limited in what he can do without formal authorisation. They do have the opportunity to win at least some of the aims of their manifesto, but all come at a price. If they strike a deal with the Tories, the coalition would have a clear majority. If they strike a deal with Labour - a more natural position, perhaps - there might well be more on the table, but more complications because of the numbers. The small parties would play pivotal roles, and the arrangement could hardly be stable. The LibDems might actually end up with less by going with an overtly more promising deal. A subtle and nuanced decision awaits Nick and his colleagues.

Gordon Brown too has a very tricky problem. Does he do a runner now, this afternoon, or does he wait for Lord Mandelmort to nod coldly to Ed Balls or David Milliband?

I'm rather glad that the most pressing decision for me today will be between a dry martini and gin and tonic. Or beer. Or red wine. Actually, perhaps a coalition might be the right way forward, right for our country, right for our people...

Incidentally - while it's clearly going to take a little while to sort out who's going to do over whom, every day puts about £400,000,000 on the national debt. So it would be good for agreements to be reached, and reached soon.

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