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Date: 09/05/10

A Calculated Risk?

As talks continue between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, it might be worth examining the arithmetic.

It is generally assumed that there is little chance of any workable coalition between Labour and the Lib Dems because their combined total of seats would still be a bit short of an overall majority. This may not be an accurate portrayal of the situation, however. Consider the following:

OK. It's (to use that hideous phrase which has found its way into the mouths of so many people who ought to know better) a 'big ask' (sorry), and the primary pre-condition for it would almost certainly be the defenestration of Gordon Brown. Even then, such a grouping would be difficult to keep together. But all it needs to do is to hang together for long enough to get proper electoral reform on the books - not just the voting system, but party funding - and to stabilise things on the economic front, and then another election could be called under a new system and we could all take our chances again, but with the far greater likelihood that the spread of political opinion amongst the public would be better reflected in the results.

There are dangers to this as well, though, not least of which would be the perception - no doubt vigorously fanned by those newspapers who love to wrap themselves in the Cross of St George on behalf of their Australian and Channel Island tax-dodging proprietors - that such a government would be a conspiracy against the English. The Tories - having few seats in Wales and only one in Scotland - would assiduously support such an assertion (although perhaps not too overtly), and would stand to reap the benefits when or if that grand coalition collapsed or was dissolved. The neo-fascists of the so-called 'English Defence League' - in practical fact an alliance of radical far-righters leading a small but loud band of pissed-up football hooligans - would seek to take maximum advantage of it, although they would probably just concentrate on their usual behaviour of attacking their fellow English who just happened to be the 'wrong' colour. The BNP - an electoral busted flush after Thursday - might regroup under a less slick leader and take to more clandestine ways of promoting themselves. UKIP - the nineteenth hole branch of this section of our politics - would probably seek to gain from it as well (although probably not by attempting to recreate the opening titles from World Of Sport!)

And it would be without purpose to point out that such a coalition would, nevertheless, have the support of 53% of the English electorate in addition to at least 56% of the Welsh and over 60% of the Scots: such a simple fact would be drowned out by the high-pitched squealing of the foreign-owned media scenting a chance to promote their own agendas of mindless Atlanticism and xenophobia.

Nonetheless, it is a chance which is - on balance - worth taking. As much as I dislike the idea of putting venal clowns such as Jowell, Mandelson and both Upper and Lower Millibands (the former possibly even as Prime Minister) back into power, the alternative - a minority Tory regime with no mandate (in terms of number of votes cast) outside of non-metropolitan southern and eastern England) would be worse, in that it would be a return to the 1980s and all that that would entail.

Sometimes, you have to make the less worse choice.