by Stephen Tall on April 26, 2010
Want to keep up with what’s happening in the media but too busy campaigning? Here’s a handy guide to a trio of today’s most essential stories …
The media obsesses about hung parliament possibilities …
Nick Clegg used his appearance on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show to make the obvious point that the Lib Dems would not prop up a Labour government if it finished third in the popular vote but ahead in terms of number of MPs:
This triggered some obsessive press speculation. The reason for Nick making the point as strongly as he did is clearly spelled out by this rare sighting: a headline in the Daily Mail that avoids using the words Clegg and Nazi in the same sentence:
The Liberal Democrat leader said it would be ‘preposterous’ for Gordon Brown – or any other Labour leader – to remain in No 10 if his party finished third in the popular vote, as polls predict. But he offered Labour a lifeline, saying he would serve with the party if ministers backed his plans to bring in proportional representation – comments seen in Westminster as a pitch for the top job himself.
The Guardian (of course) takes this as a signal that the Lib Dems must be looking to prop up the Tories:
Nick Clegg today signalled that he would speak to the Conservatives first about the formation of a minority government if Labour came third by share of the vote on 6 May, rejecting the constitutional convention that the prime minister should be allowed to try to form a government first. The Liberal Democrat leader also made it explicit for the first time that electoral reform would be an unavoidable precondition of any coalition government as he insisted that Labour will have forfeited the right to govern if it comes third.
Amidst all the newspaper chatter it’s worth reminding ourselves what it was that Nick Clegg actually said:
It seems to me that it’s just preposterous, the idea that if a party comes third in terms of the number of votes, it still has somehow the right to carry on squatting in No 10 and continue to lay claim to having the prime minister of the country.
“What I’m saying here is pointing at a very, very irrational possible outcome of our potty electoral system, which is that a party that has spectacularly lost the election because fewer people are voting for it than any other party, could nonetheless according to constitutional tradition and convention still lay claim to providing the prime minister of the country.”
Anyone spot anything not blindingly obvious in what Nick said. Thought not. As you were.
John Curtice in The Independent looks at the weekend polling data and posts an advisory warning to the party about its current vote share:
the Lib Dems are still ahead of Labour, whose average rating has held steady on 27 per cent. So the Lib Dems still have a good chance of coming second in the popular vote, cracking open the mould of the post-war, two-party system. But that two point gap can hardly be described as comfortable.
Considerable evidence points to the Lib Dem vote being relatively soft. Most polls find that its current supporters are far more likely than their Tory and Labour counterparts to say they might change their minds. The party is also doing relatively well among those who did not vote last time – and they may well need a disproportionate amount of cajoling to make it to the polls this time too. …
… if Lib Dem support were to slip behind Labour, the party’s moral authority and political clout would be much weaker. On its own, such a development would not be enough to give Mr Cameron a majority – his current seven point lead over Labour is insufficient for that. But he would claim to be the moral victor – from whom a diminished Mr Clegg might only be able to secure relatively few crumbs.