In public, the Labour Party seems to be pretty sanguine about the polls suggesting a hung parliament. The much discussed vagaries of our FPTP system mean, I'm told, it would be quite possible for Labour to come third in the popular vote but still wake up on May 7th to discover they have the largest number of MPs in a hung parliament. It's even more likely that they would have the second largest number of seats. There would be an obvious attack narrative available to them: "the Conservatives haven't 'sealed the deal and are still not trusted'; the electorate has punished us for being in power too long,for sure, but the important thing now is a coalition for electoral reform before the inevitable second election we hope will produce a representative parliament to face the huge economic challenges facing the country." Result? The Tories locked out of power for another political generation.
Labour bloggers seem much less relaxed about this: Shuggy thinks the fight to avoid third place is a sign that they are done for, and Don is equally unequivocal:
It seems obvious to me that if Labour comes third in the popular vote, then that's it - they are out of government. ..... people would have made it quite unambiguously clear that they don't want Labour in government. I absolutely shudder to think what would happen if they tried to do a deal with the Lib Dems and stagger on while presiding over the massive cuts to public spending of the kind that Clegg and Cable have repeatedly said that they want.& this, I think, is the rub for both Labour and Tories - a hung parliament could well set off a vicious bout of in-fighting inside their parties even as their leaders suddenly started talking about co-operation and 'working together for the national interest'. I mean, shiny Dave has had everything going for him - surely a failure to pluck the lowest hanging fruit in recent electoral memory has got to raise questions about his leadership? (Both in his party and, perhaps more acutely, in the Murdoch camp)*. As for dour Gordon - well that nice Mr.Miliband stands ever ready to present a new face to the public.
Cameron, on balance, could probably survive until a 2nd election - but he'd certainly be toast if he failed to win that. But Brown? I don't think so. The knives will be out for him before the last constituency declares on May 7th. It might be difficult for the LibDems to even contemplate doing a deal with Labour if he stays because he is absolutely the epitome of 'no change'. So a gap would open up between the interests of the Labour Party and the interests of its leader. & we all know New Labour has a sparkling track record in dealing with that sort of situation, don't we?
Radio 4 this morning reported Moodys, the rating agency, as being pretty positive about a hung parliament on the grounds it might lead to a grand coalition to force through the 'necessary' cuts. Paul Mason reports that the City isn't especially worried about a hung parliament per se - what they're concerned about is :
"... a "chaotic" hung parliament where there's maybe one Green, two Respect and one or two BNP members of the Commons, with strong showing from Plaid and the SNP. Right now the political class is thinking Cleggmania might go away, or recede, leaving the old two-party slugging match to get back into business. ..... What they have not even begun to plan for is if Cleggmania begins to give the electorate "permission" to just break away from the whole mainstream party circus."But a chaotic hung parliament is possible even without a further crumbling of the Tory and Labour votes. All it needs is a civil war within one or both of those parties. If I were a Lib Dem strategist, I'd be sparing some time to think about how I might help that prospect along.
But I'm not a LibDem strategist. I'm just someone who wants to see the re-emergence of a multiple voiced social democracy. I actually want a chaotic hung parliament. & here's how you can help.
*H/T to B&T for this link