I’m enjoying seeing the Left build castles in the air this morning, as they desperately try to think up some sort of deal that could keep them in power. You should never say never in politics, so I’m not going to. But here are my eight reasons why it’s very unlikely.
1. Labour hasn’t got the numbers. Even with the Lib Dems, they are still 8 short of an effective majority (given that Sinn Fein’s 5 MPs will not take their seats.) Cobbling together some sort of understanding with the Greens and the Nationalists would look desperate, last about five minutes, and make the government vulnerable to every piece of petty SNP or Plaid Cymru blackmail.
2. Labour hasn’t got the votes. They got 29 per cent of the popular vote, only 0.7 per cent more than Michael Foot managed in 1983, and less than John Major in the 1997 Tory wipeout. Even before this election, Gordon Brown lacked legitimacy. His authority now would be virtually nil.
3. Labour has lost the election. They went backwards. The Lib Dems went backwards. It is very hard to defend a loser being propped up by another loser.
4. It would discredit electoral reform. You can’t make a fundamental change to the political system as part of some cobbled-together deal to keep yourself in power and lock out the others. Labour’s eleventh-hour conversion to the noble cause of PR, after 13 years opposing it, is largely opportunistic and would look like the crudest form of gerrymandering.
5. There’s an economic crisis. Trying to stitch together unlikely coalitions and fretting about PR, a second-order issue for most voters, would look like navel-gazing to the public at a time when the greatest need is for the most stable possible government.
6. Clegg can’t go back on his refusal to deal with Gordon. Labour would have to get another leader. Even if that could be arranged in less than a few months, it would look too contrived. Could the country tolerate a second unelected prime minister in a row, a prime minister who has played no part in the TV debates?
7. The longer Labour refuse to recognise reality now, the harder it will be for them in the future. Labour is nothing like as finished as many people thought they’d be. They have a basis on which to rebuild. But if it looks like they’re clinging on, that could cost them far more than they’ve already lost. And, most importantly for Labour…
8. It simply isn’t in Labour’s interest to be in government now. The next year or so will be a world of pain for whoever’s in charge. Hugely unpopular decisions will have to be made by a government without much of a mandate. This is a good time for Labour to sit it out, elect a better leader, hope the Tories won’t last long, then capitalise on their unpopularity at the ensuing election.