Thursday, May 06, 2010

The Lib-Lab Dream Team

Today has been quite the grimmest weather I can remember on election day since I was old enough to vote. It may be a case of rose-tinted spectacles, but in my recollection all the others dawned bright and sunny. "The sun's out, and so are the Tories," quipped Neil Kinnock in '92. They were - but not in the way he meant. They were out at the polling stations ensuring victory for John Major.

Maybe this is a good omen, however. All of those bright and sunny election days ended in disappointment for yours truly, with the election of either a Tory government (1983, 1987 and 1992) or a pseudo-Tory one (1997, 2001 and 2005.) Today, for the first time in my adult life, there is the tantalising prospect of something genuinely different.

Of course, I'm not holding my breath. I have made clear in my Saturday column that I think the likeliest outcome today is a minority Conservative government, with a second election a little way down the line.

The result I am hoping for, however, is one which paves the way for a pro-reform coalition between the Liberal Democrats and post-Brownite Labour which can put this country's bent electoral system right once and for all.

To my mind, the chances of such a coalition depend on the Lib Dems outpolling Labour in the popular vote, for two reasons. Firstly, because such a result would make such a mockery of the current system that it will be rendered even more unsustainable than at present.

Secondly, because a 2nd or even 1st place for the Lib Dems in terms of share of the vote tonight could actually facilitate the arrival of Nick Clegg as the first Liberal Prime Minister since David Lloyd George.

Of all the possible election outcomes that have been outlined by the pundits over the past four weeks, the one that made most sense to me was Will Hutton's piece in last Sunday's Observer entitled: "If Labour is wise, it will usher Nick Clegg into Downing Street."

To coin a phrase, I agree with Will. If Labour comes third tonight and the Lib Dems second, Gordon Brown should immediately fall on his sword, and a caretaker triumvirate of Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson and Alistair Darling should deliver the Labour Party into a Lib-Lab coalition led by Clegg, the undisputed winner of this campaign.

What might such a coalition look like? Well, I've sketched out a possible version below. It has nine Lib Dem members and 13 Labour members, the latter incorporating the most pro-reform elements of the current Cabinet - Alan Johnson, Ben Bradshaw, Peter Hain and Lord Adonis for example.

With No 10 going to Mr Clegg, the Lib Dems could not have the Treasury as well, so Alistair Darling would stay on, reflecting his hard-earned status as the most trustworthy of Labour's senior figures.

The new Prime Minister aside, Chris Huhne would have the toughest job - as Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor it would be his task to pilot through the biggest set of constitutional reforms since those of the Liberal government of 1906, but the man who so narrowly missed out on the Lib Dem leadership is certainly equal to it.

As for should take its time to elect a new leader, but my tip is Mr Bradshaw, an excellent minister who has very few enemies in the party, has an interesting personal back-story, and, unsurprisingly enough for a former TV journalist, is very good on the box.

The Great Reform Cabinet of 2010

Prime Minister: Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Cabinet Office: Alan Johnson
Chancellor of the Exchequer: Alistair Darling
Foreign Secretary: David Miliband
Home Secretary: John Denham
Justice Secretary: Chris Huhne
Leader of the House of Commons: Harriet Harman
Business Secretary: Vince Cable
Defence Secretary: Lord Ashdown
Education Secretary: Ben Bradshaw
Health Secretary: Andy Burnham
Work and Pensions Secretary: Yvette Cooper
Climate Change Secretary: Ed Miliband
Environment Secretary: Ed Davey
Transport Secretary: Lord Adonis
Communities Secretary: Julia Goldsworthy
Culture Secretary: Tessa Jowell
Leader of the House of Lords: Baroness Williams
Scottish Secretary: Charles Kennedy
Welsh Secretary: Peter Hain
Northern Ireland Secretary: Shaun Woodward
International Development Secretary: Douglas Alexander
Chief Secretary to the Treasury: David Laws
Chief Whip: Bob Ainsworth

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1 comment:

Stephen Rouse said...

Sounds fantastic...if only I could believe it.
I think 1992 may be the closest parallel and that, yet again, the polls have considerably under-estimated the Tories. I give them an overall majority of 20-40. The Lib Dem breakthrough won't happen and I may emigrate to Greece