Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Decision Day?

As we know, there are offers on the table now from the Conservatives and Labour. Subject to any further amendments from today's talks between the negotiating teams, the LibDems have to make up our minds on whether to accept either offer, first on the basis of our undertaking to do what is necessary in the national interest to get a strong and stable Government, and on the extent to which the agreement satisfies the principles we had set out in our manifesto. We must obviously have regard to the likelihood that the offers made are deliverable by the leadership of the parties when put to their rank and file; the chances of getting the measures agreed through both Houses of Parliament, particularly the interim move towards electoral reform of the Alternative Vote, and the guarantee that whoever is Prime Minister wouldn't suddenly pull the plug on us by calling a snap general election.

16.00 Large bags or holdalls are being loaded into cars at the back of Downing Street and it has been announced that the talks betweeen LibDems and Labour have ended. A number of senior Labour statesmen including David Blunkett Andy Burnham and John Reid have said effectively that the Labour Government is finished.

Some Tories have been critical of the LibDems for holding the talks with Labour, but the Party would have crucified the leadership if we hadn't made serious efforts to ascertain what the possibilities were of a LibLab deal. It has become clear that even the limited offer they made would have been vetoed by their Parliamentary Party.

18.00 Peter Riddell of The Times says the best deal would be one that lasts four years, though he didn't add that fixed term Parliaments of that length should be a priority. The Tories and LibDems have now been negotiating the fine print of the deal in the Cabinet Office for something like 4 hours, and its an encouraging sign because stable government requires as few loose ends as possible. The danger will always be that something they hadn't thought of would cause a dispute of principle between the two partners. If the LibDems had to leave the coalition, the Tories would presumably continue as a minority government, and the stability needed for economic recovery would be forfeited. The LibDem Parliamentary Party is meeting at the LGA at 20.30, which means that the marathon discussions at the Cabinet Office are expected to last a bit longer.

19.00 The Labour National Executive has just finished its meeting, and made clear that they wouldn't have swallowed a deal with the LibDems. The marathon in the Cabinet Office is continuing, and rumours are coming out of some elements of the agreement. The BBC are pointing out areas of potential dispute such as Europe and immigration, and one hopes there will be a mechanism for resolving them.

19.10 Journalists in Downing Street are expecting the Prime Minister to appear, which is thought to mean he has been told the LibDem-Con deal has been sealed. So maybe Her Majesty will have to postpone her dinner, but won't have to stay up late.

No comments: