22 November 2009

AJ4PM: It could still happen

While we wait to see if today’s Ipsos-Mori poll is the start of a trend, it worth paying some attention to the details behind the headlines:

If the voting intentions are replicated at the next election, probably in May or June, the Conservatives will hold the most seats but fall 35 short of an overall majority in the Commons.

Then, the usual about the standing of the leaders:

Gordon Brown's personal rating remains in the doldrums. Only 34% of people are satisfied with his performance, against 59% who are dissatisfied. David Cameron had approval ratings of 48%, with 35% against.

This leads us on to what Andrew Rawnsley has to say:

All the pollsters say there has never been a precedent for such an unpopular leader managing to put himself back in an election-winning position. Those in the government who are contemplating another attempt at a coup are likely to seize on this poll as evidence that they might be able to close the gap with the Tories altogether if only Labour had a more popular face at the top.

Indeed so, but us leave that aside and consider what Rawnsley has to say if Labour hold the largest number of seats in a hung parliament:

This is the mother of all nightmares for the Lib Dems. Their senior MPs are already privately divided about what they would do in that case. Even if Labour had the most seats in the Commons, the Conservatives are almost certain to have won more votes in the country. The Tories would cry – and their argument would get huge amplification in much of the media – that Labour had lost its "moral authority" to govern. Having spent the election campaign saying that the country cannot stand another five years of Gordon Brown, how could Nick Clegg turn round and announce that the Lib Dems were going to give him life support to stay at Number 10? One very senior Lib Dem tells me he fears that they would be "crucified".

There is one intriguing solution to this dilemma, which is being discussed very quietly among some senior politicians. A blood sacrifice would be required to acknowledge that Labour had been rejected as a majority government in order to facilitate a coalition with the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems could even make this a condition of striking the bargain. The deal would be that Gordon Brown resigns and is replaced with a new Labour prime minister with a commitment to electoral reform. Hello and welcome to Number 10, Alan Johnson or David Miliband.

This commitment to electoral reform was proposed in May by one Alan Johnson.

It is still preferable to remove Brown before the election and put in place the man who would appeal more to the Lib Dems.  If this fails to happen, Alan Johnson could still be in a pivotal position should there be a hung parliament with Labour holding the largest number of seats.

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