Poor Nick Clegg! All that media attention that was paid to him around the leaders debates and what does he have to show for it – fewer seats! As I wrote a few weeks ago, the importance of debates at the end of the day is often overstated. Conservative party leader, David Cameron would enter the election with a narrow lead on Labour and emerged in much the same way with a seven point lead over Labour in the popular vote – winning a comfortable minority.
Although by convention Prime Minister Brown has the right to form government, in this day and age it is very hard to see how Mr. Cameron can be denied. He clearly came out on top of the popular vote and seat count. Any other outcome will appear very odd indeed for a modern democracy. The real challenge is how Mr. Cameron can govern and execute his platform in a way that is aligned with the Liberal Democratic Party. So while the debates did little to help Nick Clegg, he and his party will nonetheless play a pivotal role in the next government.
In watching BBC coverage last night I was struck by the fact that much of the analysis was focused on European parliaments where coalition-building is the norm. I found this odd because most of these parliaments have a proportional representational system which creates many more parties than Westminster’s first-past-the-post system. Pundits would be better to glance to Canada and Australia for insight. With Mr. Cameron clearly winning, if Clegg cannot reach an agreement with the Conservatives he is less likely to try a coalition with Labour and more likely to negotiate with the Conservatives on an issue-by-issue basis as legislation is introduced in Parliament.
Take it from this Canadian colonial who campaigned with our prime minister for the past three elections, this third option will make it harder for Great Britain to manage its way out of its very difficult economic circumstances. But this outcome is more typical of the British system than a coalition government.
Whatever happens, a minority parliament is a political junky’s delight – the real game is about to begin!