What next after last night's election results?
Anyone who was denied the opportunity to vote last night may be in line for a pay out of £750. Lord Pannick QC – writing in yesterday’s Times suggested that any prisoner denied the right to vote (Following the 2005 European Court ruling that they must be given the vote) would be eligible for a pay out ‘in the region of £750 each’.
The leading barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC told me last night that those who were ‘present to vote’ at the time the polling stations closed, but denied the opportunity to cast their ballots would be, if they sued, likely to win pay outs ‘of the same amount – £750’.
That’s the easy bit – now for the rest. Labour has lost the 2010 General Election. A pure Labour administration is dead.
The Conservatives have won the largest shift and share of votes and seats, but potentially not enough to give them the undisputed absolute power that our system accords the outright winner.
That leaves the Lib Dems, the third party, with no particular moral or legal case beyond the age old fact that their votes are understated by the number of seats they have won.
Morally, factually the outcome does not represent a wholesale call for the proportional representation system of voting that the Lib Dems demand. It is a system the Conservatives will not brook. It is a system that Labour will almost certainly allow to be included in a choice on electoral reform that they would agree to put before the British people.
But does the matter of the voting system anyway only represent a bit part player in the list of challenges that immediately face the British people? Would a Lib/Lab coalition built around electoral reform represent the basis for the ‘strong government’ that the economic crisis facing Britain demands?
If such a ‘coalition’ does not fly, where else can the ‘moral’ if not complete victors turn for support? Not Scotland – there is but one Scots Tory MP. The Scot Nats are demanding fiscal independence from Westminster – the power to raise taxes. The Conservative and UNIONIST party will not brook so grave a threat to the Union of the United Kingdom. Three Plaid Cymru MPs is not enough to make the difference.
Look then to Northern Ireland. Many Conservatives and others argued that the judgement by the Tories to join forces with the Ulster Unionists in this election was a poor one. The UUs got no MPs. The fact of their deal with the UU’s alienated the rival DUP. There are 8 DUP Mps. They represent the Conservatives best hope – 90 per cent of the votes they cast in the last House of Commons were aligned with the Tories. But the price will be high. The DUP will ask the Tories to reverse their intention to shrink the size of the Northern Ireland block grant.
My hunch is that the Lib/Lab tie up will have grave difficulty flying. The Tories may yet secure just enough seats (3 more than predicted to take them to 310 – enough to face down a combine LD/Lab vote in the Commons). But as I blog, the most likely outcome is a minority Tory Government.
Are the economic problems too grave for any minority Government to overcome? Can the deficit survive the almost certain prospect of yet another general election within perhaps a year or eighteen months time?
Far from being the election of ‘none of the above’ – was this is indeed the election of ‘all of the above’ – in other words is the message of the electorate that the political classes should come together in the interests of the British people at a moment of great crisis and challenge and serve together?
Or is it the will of the people that the ruling party should be on so tight a rein that it is impossible to reign in any other way than in the collective public interest?