Sky News is reporting that the Tories and Lib Dems have agreed the “outline” of a deal to form a new government.
If that’s true, and it almost certainly is, not least because as The Guardian put it today “Lib Dems believe Brown’s continued presence as prime minister would be seen as illegitimate by the public”, it could as the Fabians are also arguing today offer a major opportunity for the Labour Party to stage a strong comeback stronger under a new leader in opposition.
As attractive as it might have been to stay in government and push through a progressive programme of reform Labour is going to be better off in the long, and maybe not so long, run and at the same time avoiding a messy marriage of convenience in the process.
Having managed to fight an election and from a position of apparently strength lose seats, Nick Clegg might now sink even more of his MPs and lose supporters in the process by offering his party’s support to the Tories in either an official coalition or supporting a minority government. At the same time he will forfeit the chance to promote himself as a party of opposition and of change.
If even half of those Lib Dem voters who call themselves centre or left desert the party, Labour will be in line to take back Lib Dem and seats won by the Conservatives where the anti Tory vote was split.
Even if the Lib Dems get a referendum out of this deal on electoral reform it could as a source in The Guardian says today lead to a defeat when the question is put.
“The Liberals have got to realise…the chances of winning a referendum with a Cameron-led government are minimal. Labour will sit on its hands, the media will be against, and so will the Tory party.”
Having lost the election, but done enough to ensure that the Tories can not rule alone, a Cameron-Clegg/#ConDem partnership could now offer Labour the best possible chance of winning again under David Miliband.
Various reporters are tweeting that Gordon Brown is expected to make a statement about his future shortly.