The other day Nick Clegg produced a shopping list called “four steps to fairness”. As we all know, the problem with lists is you may forget something or add an item that you don’t really need. Anyway, he will no doubt keep this famous document in his back pocket in the hope that he needs it on 7 May. We move on.
Today, at the end of the LibDems overlong spring conference, Clegg is expected to say:
The party with the strongest mandate from voters will have the moral authority to be the first to seek to govern.
Just what does Clegg mean by “the strongest mandate”. Seats or voters? Anyway, “moral authority” is just nonsense. If there is a hung parliament, Brown, as the incumbent Prime Minister, has the right to see if can form a government and get his legislation through the Commons. And, of course, with other minor parties out there, he could attempt to do this with or without LibDem support.
However, if Labour do find that they do have to knock on the LibDems door, Clegg has made already made it crystal clear that he will not work with Gordon Brown.
Some of his [Clegg’s] most senior colleagues believe they would be crucified by much of the media and subsequently immolated by the voters if they try to sustain Gordon Brown in office after he had been rejected by the country. There is interest in the idea, first floated in this space some months ago, of sustaining a Labour government on condition that there was a new prime minister. Step forward, say, Alan Johnson with his long-term commitment to changing the voting system. But there are formidable obstacles in the way of such a deal – not least the likely reluctance of Gordon Brown to go gently into the night.
Hmmm. If Labour do hold the largest number of seats, Brown can go out on a high. Besides, Peter Mandelson’s patience may very snap if Our Dear Leader becomes the obstacle to Labour remaining in power.
If we assume that Clegg doesn't make a mess of things in the weeks ahead, and the polls continue to indicate a hung parliament, then the Labour leadership issue is going to surface during the final stages of the campaign.
Labour have the momentum behind them at present and have a more plausible strategy, but they will have to come up with answers to the leadership question. Not least because it may every well influence how the electorate cast their votes.