Minority government

OK, let’s try a bit of amateur punditry.

The election results seem to put the tories ahead but short of a majority.  What should and will each party do for its own interests, and for the country’s interests (for that is surely the order of priorities).

Labour seems to think it has nothing to lose, and wants an all-but-tory coalition.  Nick Clegg has rightly told them where to go: who would want to get the blame for keeping Lab in office, no matter what the reward?  I expect Lab’s attitude may change quite quickly, especially if they remove Brown (though that’ll be a tortuous process if he doesn’t go voluntarily, and it might be in their interests to keep him and blame the tories for the demise of “the recovery”).

That leaves options of a tory minority government or a tory-led coalition.  The latter would almost certainly have to include labour and/or libdems for the numbers to work.  I’m predicting they’ll try a minority government.  And it’ll work, for a while.

In particular, I wouldn’t foresee a tory-libdem coalition.  The issue of electoral reform looks like a showstopper for that.  But it could suit the libdems to let the tories govern and take the blame for economic chaos to come.  That means they’ll want to avoid anything that would give them cause for an early election, 1974-style.  A “gentlemens agreement” at daggers drawn.

On that premise, the way could be pretty-much clear for a stable minority government for some time.  That leaves the question, will the Tories try it?  They’ve hinted that they will, and if they judge they can get away with it, it seems likely.

Another possibility could be a “government of national unity”.  Unlikely, but if the markets pull the plug quickly enough then all bets could be off.  Markets that have been giving us benefit of the doubt in anticipation of a new government.

Posted on May 7, 2010, in politics, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Prediction: nobody is going to *want* another election for some time to come. Last night was disappointing for both the Tories and the Lib Dems; they won’t be keen to repeat it anytime soon.

    Obviously you’re far better informed on affairs Up There than I am, but I can’t see what’s far-fetched about a Tory/LD coalition. I’ve even heard Cameron making positive noises about electoral reform. Whether his party would stand for it is another matter, of course…

  2. I, for one, am hoping Nick Clegg tells the tories where to go too, on grounds of almost entirely opposing principles. (At least Labour have half a progressive side.)

  3. There are only two stable coalitions from the numbers, Con-LibDem and Con-Lab, and after his “vote clegg get brown” mutterings DC has effectively ruled out the later although I think it might have been best for the country.

    I don’t think he’ll get Con-LibDem, but it might be in LibDem might be persuaded to let Conservative minority government run for a bit.

    I’m also skeptical that “markets” think much of anything. There is little from an economic perspective to choose between them, other than poorly thought out Tory pledges to make savings this FY in the public sector which they’ll discover are unworkable (or unachievable) as soon as they put them to the civil servants who really run the country.

  4. Simon, my reference to the markets was the possibility that they might precipitate an immediate crisis, as they have done in Greece.

    As for immediate cuts being unworkable, what on earth leads you to suppose they’ll be any more workable a year later? The whole problem, and the reason Labour’s Weimar economics can’t work, is that there can never be a time to cut back! When in a hole, dig harder!

    btw, on the original subject, Cameron’s big offer looks interesting. I suspect he’s trying the same as Brown, offering a temptation designed to cause civil war amongst the libdem ranks, and take the moral high ground if nothing comes of it. But it’s also possible Cameron is genuinely trying to be statesmanlike in a crisis, in which case he’s going to have trouble from his own party!

  5. The amount they plan to cut from public sector pay is doable, you just don’t want to do it in the first year. Since losses by natural wastage mean you only save an average of 6 month salary per post cut, you have to cut twice as many posts to make the same saving you’d make in the next financial year. More if you start with only 11 months left in which to make the saving.

    Labour can’t count, the Tory plans mean about 100,000 public sector jobs would have to go by April 2011. The issue here is not Labour’s economics, but simple management. If the civil service is to function at all they need to be able to recruit people occasionally, fill some vacant posts. I don’t think the plans leave enough slack for the civil service to function efficiently.

    I’m no particular fan of big government, and I’m sure there is a lot that can go from the public sector. But big changes of this sort need planning, and often cost money upfront. The merits of doing it when unemployment is knocking around the 2.4 million mark are also unclear.

    One could save the money the Tory plan require from public sector pay, but you have to cut the posts from that labour intensive area of government – health care – and they don’t have a mandate for that.

    And this is off course ignoring the Unions, who were uppity enough under the previous plans.

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