Friday 7 May 2010

President Cameron/Brown?

Labour’s Graham Allen, who was re-elected in Nottingham North yesterday, wants Parliament recalled now so that our political situation can be discussed by MPs on the Commons floor.

It’s a parliamentary election in a parliamentary system, he argues, so why isn’t Parliament involved right now?

Delay is the answer of course, and because as soon as the chamber doors were unlocked Gordon and Dave would both dash for the PM’s seat and end up scuffling on the Commons floor.

But Allen, who has backed a proportional voting system before, claims to have a way to sort out our current deadlock.

"David Cameron is alleged to be softening on a more proportional electoral system, but still apparently wants the strong leadership which first past the post normally delivers.

"He, and everyone else in politics, can have their cake and eat it too, by having a first past the post system to directly elect the Prime Minister, and a proportional system to elect the legislature."

This would basically see our Prime Minister elected in the same way as an American President and I imagine would have to see him removed from Parliament, though Allen hasn’t specified that.

We have had the TV debates, the thinking goes, and most PMs act like presidents these days anyway. So why not make them more accountable by splitting the executive from the legislature?

For me we’ve already gone far enough down the presidential route, but by all means strengthen Parliament and make it more representative.

There is an appetite for change and if Cameron can convince the Lib Dems his plans are enough, for now, then we’ll have a Lib/Con pact on Monday morning.

Cameron reaches out, but not at full stretch...

Cameron’s speech made the right noises of wanting to work with the Lib Dems.

But his offer of joint working did not involve much compromise, i.e. new steps.

Cameron outlined things where the Lib Dems and Tories already agree.

But then on the crucial issue of voter reform only offered to set up a “joint committee of inquiry”.

To Clegg and to the Lib Dems I’ve a feeling that means little real action. Ball back in Clegg’s court.

Clegg is playing is hand...

It’s interesting that despite his party coming third in seats and vote share, despite him actually ending up with fewer seats and losing key front bench colleagues – Nick Clegg has managed to look statesman like today.

Clegg previously said that the party with the biggest vote share would have a moral right to move things forward in a hung Parliament situation.

He has been given immediate kudos on TV and on the web for ‘sticking to his word’ and suggesting it is now for the Tories to try and “govern in the national interest”.

What’s even more interesting is the way the Tories have responded so quickly, with Cameron almost immediately scheduling a statement to show how he’ll meet that challenge.

Despite the policy differences between the two parties, which are stark, it does show how the two leaders operate similarly.

At least it shows how much closer Cameron is to Clegg’s wavelength than Brown.

Labour has put out all sorts of people this morning to appeal to the Lib Dems – Harriet Harman was positively smooching the third party’s political behind on TV just now.

But they don’t seem to have made any headway and anyway, none of those people has been Gordon Brown; putting aside that rather stiff statement earlier.

The PM said: “It is my duty as Prime Minister to take all steps to ensure Britain has a strong, stable and principled government. This is, of course, chiefly a task for politicians and – in time – for Parliament.

“But to facilitate this process and consistent with the conventions set out in the draft Cabinet Manual, I have asked the Cabinet Secretary to arrange for the civil service to provide support on request to parties engaged in discussions on the formation of government.”

Not exactly vibrant stuff, particularly when time is of the essence.

So could a Lib/Con arrangement of some sort actually be quite dynamic? It’s moving so quickly that by the time you’ve read this we may well have an answer.

What will Clegg do?

Clegg was not a happy bunny this morning.

It looks like the Lib Dems may well end up with fewer seats than when they started – they just didn’t get the votes.

But Clegg may still end up as a winner.

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with Nottingham Trent University politics expert Dr Matthew Ashton.

He explained: “The Lib Dems don't have to win this election to get what they want – they only need a hung Parliament and then they can sell their electoral support in a bid to change the voting system.”

The question is, will Clegg be able to stomach going through with a Lib/Lab deal when neither party seems to have a “moral right”?

Or will the reality of politics show him up to be a pragmatist – who will do what it takes to get what he wants – rather than the idealist he would have had us believe he was.

Bye bye McNulty

One time Lobbydog fodder Tony McNulty lost his seat today.

It would be rude to let the moment pass without saying something.

Tony, it was fun growling at you.

As close as it gets...

So Gloria De Piero wins Ashfield by the skin on her finger tip.

The Labour candidate polled 16,239 votes compared with 16,047 for Liberal Democrat Jason Zadrozny – he’s going to feel that in the morning.

Labour's majority going into the election was more than 10,000. But all that matters now is that De Piero is in.

I’ve a feeling it is going to make Westminster a slightly more interesting place.

Thursday 6 May 2010

I've been out of action...

Dear readers,

I have to apologize for the lack of blog and tweet action over the last few days.

I’ve been struck down with a vicious chest infection which irritatingly means I’ll be bed bound tonight when I should be sniffing around the election counts.

I had been thinking it was the worst thing that could happen to a political type on the eve of a general election, but then Nigel Farage had to go and out-do me.

Anyway, I’ll at least be trying to get involved on Twitter later and I'll be blogging as we go too…