The arithmetic hurts


The Tories don’t know whether to love bomb or carpet bomb the Lib Dems.

They have chosen, in the interim, some speculative bombing, claiming that Nick Clegg is trying to blackmail the country into changing the voting system, hardly explosive stuff.  Polls suggest that the Tories are marginally ahead of the Liberal Democrats, followed by Labour. That the voting system is unfair is unanswerable. If the votes for the three main parties stood at 30% each on May 6 (with “others” such as the Scottish and Welsh nationalists at 10%), Labour would return to Westminster with 315 MPs, 11 short of an overall majority, while the Conservatives would have 206 and the Liberal Democrats on 100. If the Tories win the popular vote with 33%, the Lib Dems come second with 30% and Labour last with 27%, Labour would pip the Tories to be the largest party in the House of Commons by 262 to 257 – with the Lib Dems picking up a lowly 102 seats. (Source; BBC seats calculator). But whether proportional representation is the answer is a moot point. All PR systems have strengths and weaknesses but its worth having a look at the Australian model, if your interested.  Nobody, though, seems to have discussed the Chartist idea of First Past the Post (FPTP) but with equal electoral districts. And PR will probably  mean some unpleasant minority parties sitting in the Commons-how prepared are people for that?

So as things stand no overall majority looks likely. But it is an arresting fact that if there is a hung Parliament ,Cabinet Office  rules say, even if the Government  does not win a majority of the votes cast,  or even the most seats,  the incumbent Prime Minister has the right first off  to try to form a Government. Nick Clegg has wised up to this and  having said that he wont help Labour to stay in power, he has now shifted position to suggest he could deal with Labour but without Gordon Brown at the top, or I think that’s what he last said, prompting  the  rather unseemly spectacle of  some   furtive re-positioning in the higher echelons of the Labour party. Top of the shopping list for Clegg would be putting a new voting system to a referendum  .We still have a way to go  with one more debate and the fact that whatever electors are telling pollsters this might well  change in the privacy of the polling booth. Certainly it is panning out as the most exciting election in modern times.

The Tories think that the Clegg phenomenon and lustre will fade somewhat by election day. Indeed, judging by the knots he has tied himself in over a possible post-election  deal with Labour  and Gordon Brown,  he has confirmed that he  is much  like most other politicians, in that  he shares a  single minded determination not to  answer pretty straightforward and rather important  questions,  even  when  simply put.The Halo has slipped just a little.

Meanwhile, Labour strategists are in despair over the Prime Ministers gaffe in Rochdale where he was heard to refer to a lifelong Labour supporter as a bigot, apparently for complaining that there were too many east European immigrants.The incident appeared to confirm some stereotypical views in circulation  about Brown being prickly , intolerant  and searching for staffers to blame when things dont quite go  according to plan.  Does BIGOT, one wonders, now  stand for Brown is going on Thursday? Polls out just after the last TV debate suggest that Brown again failed to make an impact, with Cameron  ahead of Clegg. Tories go into the last week  beginning to believe that they might just about shade it.

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