Senior Lib Dems are muttering about being "unconstitutional". Photo: Getty
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Lib Dems must resist succumbing to the voting system by only supporting the party with most seats

Don't play by First Past the Post's rules.

It should be the dream scenario for any smaller party with ambitions for government. Of the two parties likely to form a government, neither has the support to get a majority in the Commons; furthermore, one seems set to win most seats, the other most votes. It’s a recipe for tough negotiations with both in order to deliver the biggest slice of your own manifesto you possibly can.

Yet rumours are circulating that “senior Lib Dems” are questioning if we could put Ed Miliband into No 10 if he fails to be the biggest party in the Commons – on the grounds that it could be "unconstitutional". This is very wrong-headed thinking – and here’s why.

The SNP are going to do very well in this election – good luck to them, they’ve fought a brilliant campaign led by a politically astute and hugely popular leader. Something of a rarity all round in 2015.

But our daft electoral system means the SNP seat count is likely to hugely over-deliver in relation to their share of the vote. Current polling indicates they could have around 8 per cent of the Commons seats on 4 per cent of the popular UK vote.

That’s not the SNP’s fault. They supported a Yes vote in the AV referendum and the party is a long-standing supporter of the Single Transferable Vote system. But it does mean they’ll hugely benefit from the election being run on a First Post the Post (FPTP) system.

Nor is it Ed Miliband’s fault – who also campaigned for a Yes vote and the abolition of FPTP in 2011. But it’s he who will suffer, as SNP MPs replace mostly Labour MPs in the next parliament.

If the blame can be laid at anyone’s door, it’s the Tories and David Cameron – who campaigned vigorously to maintain the status quo, and of course to defeat the Lib Dems' longstanding desire for a fairer voting system to replace FPTP in British politics.

What an irony it would be then if the Liberal Democrats were to reward that behaviour, by excluding from power the leader with the most popular mandate among voters, on the grounds that the ludicrous FPTP system had thrown up a different result.

Ironically, thanks to FPTP, polls indicate that after the election, the Lib Dems will have around half the number of MPs as the SNP on double the share of the popular vote. It’s more likely that the SNP will hold the whip hand. But if we do have a say, let’s not use the pretence of constitutional niceties to defy the popular vote.

And we must not forget, while we don’t agree with the SNP on much, voting reform is a common goal shared by Nicola Sturgeon – and Ed Miliband. Ponder that while considering who to hand the keys of No 10 to.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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Donald Tusk is merely calling out Tory hypocrisy on Brexit

And the President of the European Council has the upper hand. 

The pair of numbers that have driven the discussion about our future relationship with the EU since the referendum have been 48 to 52. 

"The majority have spoken", cry the Leavers. "It’s time to tell the EU what we want and get out." However, even as they push for triggering the process early next year, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk’s reply to a letter from Tory MPs, where he blamed British voters for the uncertain futures of expats, is a long overdue reminder that another pair of numbers will, from now on, dominate proceedings.

27 to 1.

For all the media speculation around Brexit in the past few months, over what kind of deal the government will decide to be seek from any future relationship, it is incredible just how little time and thought has been given to the fact that once Article 50 is triggered, we will effectively be negotiating with 27 other partners, not just one.

Of course some countries hold more sway than others, due to their relative economic strength and population, but one of the great equalising achievements of the EU is that all of its member states have a voice. We need look no further than the last minute objections from just one federal entity within Belgium last month over CETA, the huge EU-Canada trade deal, to be reminded how difficult and important it is to build consensus.

Yet the Tories are failing spectacularly to understand this.

During his short trip to Strasbourg last week, David Davis at best ignored, and at worse angered, many of the people he will have to get on-side to secure a deal. Although he did meet Michel Barnier, the senior negotiator for the European Commission, and Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative at the future talks, he did not meet any representatives from the key Socialist Group in the European Parliament, nor the Parliament’s President, nor the Chair of its Constitutional Committee which will advise the Parliament on whether to ratify any future Brexit deal.

In parallel, Boris Johnson, to nobody’s surprise any more, continues to blunder from one debacle to the next, the most recent of which was to insult the Italians with glib remarks about prosecco sales.

On his side, Liam Fox caused astonishment by claiming that the EU would have to pay compensation to third countries across the world with which it has trade deals, to compensate them for Britain no longer being part of the EU with which they had signed their agreements!

And now, Theresa May has been embarrassingly rebuffed in her clumsy attempt to strike an early deal directly with Angela Merkel over the future residential status of EU citizens living and working in Britain and UK citizens in Europe. 

When May was campaigning to be Conservative party leader and thus PM, to appeal to the anti-european Tories, she argued that the future status of EU citizens would have to be part of the ongoing negotiations with the EU. Why then, four months later, are Tory MPs so quick to complain and call foul when Merkel and Tusk take the same position as May held in July? 

Because Theresa May has reversed her position. Our EU partners’ position remains the same - no negotiations before Article 50 is triggered and Britain sets out its stall. Merkel has said she can’t and won’t strike a pre-emptive deal.  In any case, she cannot make agreements on behalf of France,Netherlands and Austria, all of who have their own imminent elections to consider, let alone any other EU member. 

The hypocrisy of Tory MPs calling on the European Commission and national governments to end "the anxiety and uncertainty for UK and EU citizens living in one another's territories", while at the same time having caused and fuelled that same anxiety and uncertainty, has been called out by Tusk. 

With such an astounding level of Tory hypocrisy, incompetence and inconsistency, is it any wonder that our future negotiating partners are rapidly losing any residual goodwill towards the UK?

It is beholden on Theresa May’s government to start showing some awareness of the scale of the enormous task ahead, if the UK is to have any hope of striking a Brexit deal that is anything less than disastrous for Britain. The way they are handling this relatively simple issue does not augur well for the far more complex issues, involving difficult choices for Britain, that are looming on the horizon.

Richard Corbett is the Labour MEP for Yorkshire & Humber.