Who governs? The commentators’ view

Britain appears to be heading for a hung parliament. David Goodhart, Jonathan Freedland, and Peter Kellner give differing perspectives in three new articles.

Unless Gordon Brown’s “bigot” gaffe projects the Tories above 35 per cent, Britain is heading for a hung parliament. Three political commentators give differing perspectives in three new articles.

In next month’s Prospect magazine, due out tomorrow, Editor David Goodhart, sets out what he calls the “dream ticket” of a Labour and Lib Dem coalition. Goodhart argues that now is a “good time for a coalition government” because “there is a high degree of political consensus in Britain at present, but we also have short-term difficulties that no single party is capable of sorting out.” He also believes that now is a “good time for a centre-left coalition government” and salivates over the prospect of a Darling-Cable economic team. Goodhart thinks it will work best if it is “a time-limited coalition of, say, two years”. He concludes:

“New Labour is destined to end, as it began, in a flurry of talk about political realignment. this time it may be desperate enough to embrace it.”

Jonathan Freedland in today’s Guardian shares Goodhart’s aims and sets out the process that he thinks is needed to get there: “Our electoral system’s insane reality is that Lib Dem dreams will depend on the Labour party still doing well at the polls”. Freedland asks what would bring the kind of change that the “Guardian tribe” demands – including meaningful electoral reform – and rules out a “Conservative minority government sustained by Lib Dems nor even a formal Con-Lib coalition”. Settling on a Lab-Lib coalition, Freedland sets out the process:

“Labour’s vote needs to hold up just enough that the party is not trounced into third place, making it an impossible partner for the Lib Dems who would be pushed instead into alliance with the Tories. Labour needs to win as many seats as possible, so that it can govern with the Lib Dems, forming a coalition whose raison d’être would be the overhaul of a tired, broken system.”

Finally YouGov President, Peter Kellner, takes an alternative perspective in tomorrow’s New Statesman and suggests that a hung parliament is good news for the Tories. Looking at the precedent from 1974 and 1923 and the principle that “the Queen is kept out of controversy”, Kellner says:

“If Brown tries to carry on and fails, the Queen will ask Cameron to form a government. If Brown resigns, but PM Cameron can’t muster a majority for his programme, a new election will be held; the public are likely to crucify Labour and the Lib Dems for precipitating the new election and prolonging uncertainty, and so grant Cameron a big majority.”

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