What would the Lib Dems do in the event of a hung parliament? The Tories are slipping down the polls (I’m blaming their constant “When we’re in government” tone, talking about Lisbon and the recent wave of pity for Gordon). It’s possible that no clear winner will emerge from the general election, forcing the parties to do deals with each other in order to form a government.
I thought this matter was settled. I thought Nick had ruled out a coalition with Labour. Apparently not!
The ground has shifted again and Nick Clegg has elaborated on the party’s position:
I start from a very simple first principle – it is not Gordon Brown or David Cameron or Nick Clegg who are kingmakers in British politics – it’s the British people.
So the votes of the British people are what should determine what happens afterwards.
… which all sounds fair enough, but he’s left himself some wriggle room here – does mandate mean popular vote or the number of seats? It’s a crucial question considering how few votes Labour needs to win a seat in comparison with the Conservatives (and the effect is exaggerated still further for the Liberal Democrats).
The idea that the public are the kingmakers is a noble one, but there’s a problem – the single biggest vote will be for the ‘couldn’t care less who wins’ party, that will make up anything between 40-60% of the eligible voters, making them the nearest thing to a ‘majority opinion.’
The real mandate is ‘do what you want, we don’t care, you’re all the same, my vote doesn’t matter anyway.’
Even if, say, the Tory and Lib Dem vote adds up to more than 50% of the votes of all eligible voters and they go into coalition, there’s still a problem: Neither party has a mandate from the majority for their policies, so how do you decide which policies to go with?
Or have we all got so used to the idea that the government doesn’t need a mandate from the majority (just a majority) that we don’t care anymore?