Whatever the outcomes of this little Lib Dem mini-coup, that party is now in grave danger. It is important to remember that the history of the SDP-Liberal Alliance is a jolly turbulent one. It seems to me to be a party, being, as it is, really two merged though still fairly discrete political identities, that is quite capable of tearing itself apart over this. One of its own supporters seems to think so too. Mike Smithson, of Political Betting, writes:
Could this end up splitting the Lib Dems?
This is my 64th birthday and I’m fearful that it could go down as the day that parts of my own party took decisions that could have a lasting and possibly even destructive effect.
The election arithmetic and the harsh economic reality for the nation leaves the party with one choice - but one that large parts of it appear to be unable to accept.
To be seen to be propping up a government that secured just 29.6% of the vote just five days ago and to reject what appears to be a reasonable deal from the seat and vote winners is taking it into very dangerous territory.
I don’t know where this will end up but passions are running very high and all players have to detach themselves and look at how it appears from the outside.
The events of these few days will define the Lib Dems for generations if it survives that long.I think it's becoming obvious now that a war is going on inside the Liberal Democrats for what some clearly see as the identity of that party. At the moment, it would appear that the Euro-left of PR-obsessed, Labour-sympathisers are almost certainly winning.
The Tories should walk away from this lot now. It's no good waiting for some sort of childish propaganda victory. The Lib Dems look toxic to me. Better out of it while the election performance, so close to a majority, is still uncontaminated by non-manifesto commitments, never required but made public nonetheless. I could live with AV, burdensome though it would be. But for many Conservatives that was a step too far already. It should really be the dealbreaker, if there is any deal to be broken (which I now doubt).
As for the Lib-Lab coup: huh, let it happen. Let Ashdown's dare be tested. I can guarantee that a Lib-Lab minority pact is truly the lemming option. Never mind that it destroys the idea that the Lib Dems (or Labour - but we already knew about them) are remotely interested in 'stable government in the national interest', it would be extraordinarily bad for the reputation of parliament, too. But hey ho. If Labour really doesn't understand what losing an election, or, at the very least, the authority to govern, means, then they must learn the hard way. And they will, as others have said, at another election - which will happen a lot sooner than even I'd thought - in August of September.
As for the Lib Dems. Well, unless Clegg does something remarkable today and proves that he is in charge of a unified party - 'his' party, not Paddy Ashdown's - then I firmly believe that they are finished. Every hour of secret talks and double dealing that passes, they come off looking worse in the eyes of an impatient nation. What's more, every hour of secret talks and double dealing that passes, the case for proportional representation in a nation with a tradition of and an appetite for strong government looks weaker and weaker.
Why, I wonder, do the Lib Dems think they only ever win 18-24% of the popular vote? Well, if they don't know then I'll happily spell it out: because 60-80% of the electorate doesn't like their policies and never has. The Tories should remember that.
One other thing: so much for Guido's "Change Coalition". Good. One thing I could never have stomached was that slimy toad Chris Huhne in a cabinet post. He sounded far too much like another Hoon to me.