Leaders’ statements

(Updated.)

A little while ago, Brown made his first post-election statement, saying he respects Clegg’s decision to talk first to Cameron, but making clear he is not resigning for now, and offering a referendum on electoral reform as part of a potential coalition with the LibDems.

Just under an hour later, Cameron made his statement (available at the same “live blog” link as Brown’s). After trumpeting the size of the swing from Labour to Conservative, he acknowledged coming up short and needing to work with parliament. He explained what a set of “confidence and supply” agreements with “other parties,” but also made–surprisingly, to me–an offer of a “comprehensive agreement” with the Liberal Democrats. This agreement would have to respect the Tories’ rights to implement most of their manifesto, he maintained, but it would also allow the LibDems to implement some of theirs. Cameron reiterated his preference for FPTP, but also acknowledged that other parties had “their ideas” and offered an “all-party enquiry” on the electoral system. He never used the word “coalition” but the possibility that LibDems holding positions was certainly implied.

A statement from Clegg is expected imminently. Or maybe not. Apparently he never made the statement originally planned (according to BBC TV) for about 2:40. Rather, the party issued a statement (according to the same live blog linked above):

Nick Clegg and David Cameron had a short telephone discussion this afternoon during which they agreed that they should explore further proposals for a programme of economic and political reform.

3 thoughts on “Leaders’ statements

  1. Thanks, Matthew, for all this coverage of the UK election. I’m not surprised by the likely formation of some type of Conservative minority government, but I am surprised at how the Liberal Democrat vote came in so far below the latest opinion polls, and at how few seats they have managed to win. I’m also surprised at how well Labour’s support held up. Perhaps people are afraid of the budget cuts to come, particularly if the work in the public sector or benefit from it. Here in Scotland, we have about the same electoral outcome as in 2005, with Labour performing particularly well and only one Conservative MP elected (this is likely to have political consequences).

    As for your comments on the leaders’ statements, it could be that the Conservatives are trying to trap the Lib Dems into a coalition or formal supply and confidence arrangement because of the severity of the austerity plans likely to come; they would like to spread the blame for the pain around. It might not be in the interests of the Lib Dems to get too close to the Conservatives at this time, although if an actual referendum on PR is offered by the Conservatives – who oppose any change of system, but would probably campaign against it and might be satisfied with that – the Lib Dems might accept it as the best they can do. There’s no guarantee that the public will vote for PR. I suspect that negotiations will be wrapped up sooner, rather than later – probably this weekend – due to economic interests and the expectations of the British public.

    Very interesting times!

    Tom

  2. The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader, Alex Salmond, was just on Sky News saying that his party has been talking to the Conservatives. All constituencies have now (16:00 BST) been declared apart from two (one of which will hold the election in three weeks, due to the death of a candidate), and both are likely to go Conservative. This would mean 307 seats for them. Since the Speaker is ‘without’ party, and Sinn Fein MPs do not take up their (five) seats, this brings the required numbers down so that some kind of arrangement with the Democratic Unionists, SNP, and Plaid Cymru (over money) would be enough for a bare majority. I suspect that Cameron wants to get an arrangement that is broader than this, so will keep on cultivating good relations with the Lib Dems. Ideally he would like to spread the blame for future pain around and get a government formed that can be as stable as possible for a while. If Labour is sidelined, Brown will be out and the party will tear itself apart, with an eventual shift to the left. This is definitely in the interests of the other parties.

  3. But Salmond has changed his tune.
    Together with his Welsh allies in Plaid Cymru, he urged Gordon Brown and Nick Clegg to “seize the moment” and form a “progressive alliance”.

    Such an alliance would be more stable than it appears. It should have 329 MPs. Needing only 323 for a majority (644 MPs vote, not counting the 5 Sinn Fein abstentionists and the Speaker), it would have 6 MPs to spare. No mini-party would have a veto, not even the 6 SNP MPs:
    Labour 258
    Lib Dems 57
    SDLP 3 (sit with Labour)
    Scottish National Party 6 (They have proportional representation already in the Scottish Parliament, and want it at Westminster)
    Plaid Cymru 3 (Welsh Nationalists who are Labour’s coalition partners in Wales)
    Green 1
    Naomi Long, Alliance (They have proportional representation already in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and want it at Westminster. She should sit with the Lib Dems.)

    This afternoon’s demonstration of 2,500 people in Trafalgar Square led to 1,000 of them demanding Nick Clegg make an impromptu speech to the crowd.

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