Recipe for Suicide

John Lanchester · Will there be a deal today?

No news yet. In with all the extraordinary excitement and unprecedented constitutional upheaval, I’m also starting to get a little bit bored. Apparently the mood-music or hint-music is that they’ll reach a deal today.

According to the Guardian, ‘Cameron is understood to have told senior Tories that he would not be offering a referendum on electoral reform under his government’.

That has to mean no deal, surely? But according to the FT, ‘The Lib Dems are demanding that Mr Cameron moves immediately to introduce a version of electoral reform – the so-called alternative vote – as a sign of his intention to carry out more far-reaching reforms over time.’ He’s also trying to insist on fixed term Parliaments. I’m amazed that would be enough for the Lib Dems; to me, going into power with the Tories would be a recipe for suicide. Not mine, obviously: theirs. It would be the perfect outcome for Labour.

As for the Times, their live blog reproduces a poster which sums up the feelings of many people I know.

Times, spoof poster


  • 10 May 2010 at 11:37am
    A.J.P. Crown says:
    Immediately this is over all the civil service records relating to it ought to be made public. It would be nice if the three parties gave some account too before everyone forgets and or dies.

  • 10 May 2010 at 1:33pm
    streetsj says:
    I dont see why people think that Labour is in a position to offer voting reform. They would never get it through the House.

    • 10 May 2010 at 6:26pm
      Joe Morison says: @ streetsj
      MPs tend to vote for their jobs before they vote on their principles. If the Labour government made it clear they'd go to the country if they lost the vote (for a referendum, remember, not an immediate change), i think those considering voting against would know the wrath of the electors would be likely to fall on those who had made them have to vote again.

  • 10 May 2010 at 1:36pm
    loxhore says:
    Perhaps they're giving shorter shrift to political strategy than you'd expect because they believe in the capacity of their policies to temper and improve Tory governance.

  • 10 May 2010 at 1:41pm
    ski says:
    Come on John, you cannot be bored. Is this not fascinating? The election result seems to say so much. First, the British people were not ready to throw their arms around the conservatives even after three consecutive Labour wins. Even after Iraq, the spinning of Blair, or from a left of centre voter's point of view, after New Labour's love affair with big business and its lurch to the right on law and order and civil rights, after all that, they were not completely abandoned. I find that astonishing. For me it demonstrates the magnitude of the early New Labour electoral victories under Blair: these were wins that were truly devastating. But of course those wins in turn were made possible by the disintegration of the Conservatives after two decades in power. The point is: I don't think Labour is disintegrating in the same way. It has taken all that I've mentioned about Labour over three full terms plus the biggest economic shock in generations to squeeze Labour out of power.

    On one level it seems that the British electorate have had enough of Labour but cannot yet fully embrace the Tories and aren't particularly attracted by the Lib Dems either. A major complicating factor is that it is hard for any electoral system to create a sound set of global preferences from the mass of individual preferences. Clearly the FPTP system is a very poor way to reflect those preferences. After all, the Lib Dems did win about 23% of the vote, which would have seen them with 150 seats under a strictly proportional system.

    It is true that minor parties who enter coalition often pay a high price for compromising. Typically small parties are not broad churches and are instead made up of people with slightly more ideological reasons for making their choice. This leaves them open to rejection when they make the necessary compromises associated with coaltion and then later get bogged down with the imperfect fudges that are part of being in government. That is why it is essential for Clegg to get some kind of movement on electoral form.

    Yet the other reality is that his party ought not think it can hang around forever awaiting some big breakthrough. If it gets a reasonable offer of influence now, it should enter power and try to shape policy as best it can in a set number of core areas. But it needs to inform its base at the start that many objectives cannot be tackled owing to the compromise and that they must be patient and work with what they have.

  • 10 May 2010 at 4:36pm
    Geoff Roberts says:
    There are some interesting parallels between GB and NRW in Germany (that's North Rhine Westfalia in case you didn't know.) In the state election yesterday, the CDU and the SPD finished up almost deadheating (34.6% and 34.5%) while the liberals underachieved in comparison with their pre-election target of 10%+x by getting 6.7% - down from 14.5% at the national election inSeptember 09. So it's a deadlock. the Greens came in at 12.5% - way up on their previous result and the 'Linke' (Left) got in with 6.7%. So there is a lot of calculating going on, the CDU and the Liberals can't reach a majority, the SPD and the Greens can't either and the Linke act as if they are waiting for the invitation "Will you, won't you ..." which they won't get. Now Mr. Clegg should take a look at what is happening to Westerwelle and the Liberals, who with a different agenda (tax cuts, privatised medical care, "less bureacracy" whatver that means, more "freedom") none of which will now be realised as there ain't no cash around to fund them. Westerwelle and the Liberals rode into town on a wave of enthusiasm ("we are going to chnage Germany!") and are now close to the knock out. So maybe Clegg should take a look, and keep out of Cameron's plans for a coalition.

  • 10 May 2010 at 8:41pm
    simonpawley says:
    I shouldn't think anyone will be feeling bored this evening, but just in case, here is some entertainment for you:

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