The fast and furious pace of the election campaign is getting to Nick Clegg. First, we had his dress rehearsal for Thursday night and then a little muddled thinking when he was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman:
JP: Define mandate.
NC: Self-evidently if a party has more votes than seats than any other party, but not an absolute majority then its got a mandate.
Without a majority the one thing a party doesn't have is a mandate. Furthermore, it’s seats that count in our parliamentary system.
No matter. He keeps going.
JP: If it has fewer seats than votes does it have a mandate?
NC: ….the party that has got a clear mandate, more voters, more seats than any others, even if they don’t have an absolute majority….has the first moral right to seek to govern on its own or reach out to other parties.
Let’s play this out. Labour finishes up with the largest number of seats but with less votes than the Tories. Brown, as the incumbent Prime Minister, attempts to form a government, calls Clegg in for a chat and offers him a job on condition that the Lib Dems support Labour.
Does Clegg then declare he has no “moral right” to accept such an arrangement?
Answers on a postcard, please.