Nick Clegg and David Cameron at their first joint press conference following the formation of the coalition on 12 May 2010. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

If Cameron rules out coalition, he rules out being in government after 2015

Any minority government would soon collapse as there would be no impetus for the Lib Dems to support the Queen's Speech.

Interesting news overnight from the Telegraph that David Cameron wants to rule out any coalition involving the Conservatives after the 2015 general election.

It would be very strange if the Tories did include such a clause in their manifesto. The average polling in recent months has them on 33 per cent with Labour on an average of 38 per cent. Even if these positions were reversed, the Tories would still likely fall short of a majority because of the quirky way blue and red seats are distributed under our current electoral system. And very few people think the Tories will go up by 5 per cent and Labour will fall by 5 per cent in the run-up to 2015. Far, far more likely is something that falls short of that.

So the absolute best the Conservatives can realistically hope for is that they will be the largest party in a hung parliament. If this good fortune were to befall them, and they then refused to form a coalition, the government would collapse shortly afterwards as there would be no impetus for the Lib Dems to support a Queen's Speech from a minority administration. Unable to command a majority for his programme, Cameron would have no choice but to seek a dissolution.

Were this to happen, it is even less likely that the Tories would gain seats in the subsequent election. The public will have just been through a general election and given its verdict. The Conservative Party will have stubbornly refused to compromise and the electorate does not like to be asked twice in quick succession. The party that will be seen to have caused the problem leading to this second election will be the one refusing any deal. In other words, Cameron would be effectively ruling the Tories out of being in government after 2015. Given how well he played the original hung parliament game, it seems unlikely he would paint himself into a corner like this.

Another reason why it seems unlikely is that refusing to do any deal after 2015 goes so strongly against what he told us in the early part of this government about "coming together in the national interest". Cameron would find it extremely difficult to reconcile the two positions and could easily be painted as unprincipled and being driven by the most extreme elements of the right of his party.

This story would seem bizarre in many other countries where coalitions are the norm. The idea that a party should dig its heels in and insist on all the power (or effectively none of it) would be very alien indeed. The only reason this seems even vaguely plausible in this country is because of the history of majority governments we have seen in recent decades (almost always on the back of a minority of votes, incidentally) under first-past-the-post. But with the breakdown in traditional voting patterns and more and more people willing to vote for smaller parties, many psephologists believe the days of regular majority governments are gone.

Cameron would be far better off reconciling his party to this new reality, rather than stamping his feet and insisting he wants all the power for himself.

It simply isn't going to happen.

Mark Thompson (@MarkReckons) is a political blogger and commentator who edits the award-winning Mark Thompson's Blog.

He is also co-host of the House of Commons podcast.

Getty
Show Hide image

Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

0800 7318496