Election News Special 2010: “Coalition of the losers”

The longest TV election night in UK history now reaches its 96th hour.  Have they allowed David Dimbleby some sleep?  Judging by his appearance at the hurriedly arranged 8.30 pm BBC1 Election special, he’s had a few hours kip.

But under the hallowed unwritten UK constitution it’s actually a requirement that a Dimbleby remains on TV until a new government is formed.   It’s going to be a long night.

You guys all wanted a hung parliament – and this is what it’s like.  We’re watching the formation of a Government in slow-mo, something  that usually happens in just a few hours on the early hours of a Friday morning after the polls close.

But you’ve got to admit these are great, dramatic political events.  Today (Monday) perhaps the best of all as Gordon Brown shifted the dynamic once more with his resigning as leader, but remaining PM.  It’s one of the great features of that same unwritten UK constitution that we can do this – “I’m resigning as leader, but I’m still in charge of the country”.  Beleaguered leaders elsewhere must see this as a pretty neat trick.

General Election Night, usually the time of highest drama as MPs fall and rise, now feels like the phony war.  There was no Portillo moment then.  But I think we’ve had it now, with Gordon falling on his sword outside No 10.  But “were you back home in time for Gordon?”, sadly doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Fittingly for an election that was blown wide-open by the TV debates, it is rolling 24 hour TV news, that best captures the post-Election blow-by-blow events.  So what if Gordon makes his announcement at 5.05pm – TV has no fixed deadlines and carries that live.  Newspapers must do their best to catch up.

We’ve also got a great cast of characters on show from across the political spectrum and over time, with every former Lib Dem leader (except Charlie K who clearly isn’t being allowed anywhere near the cameras) wheeled out to comment, since they can’t get the Cleggster himself.  It’s a star-studded cast – and given so much TV to fill everyone who was anyone gets 5 minutes on air.

But with the LibDem negotiations now opened up with both main parties, we have seemingly descended into eBay politics – the most recent bid from Labour this afternoon was “we’ll sack our leader”, to which the Tories have now countered with “full coalition AND a referendum on PR”.  I think they’ll be offering up their immortal souls next.  It’s all a bit reminiscent of the old joke:  “Those are my principles. And if you don’t like them – I have others.”

But lest we delude ourselves about voting reform, what would be going on now if we had PR?   With perfect PR we’d now have no party with an overall majority, with the Tories as the largest party, Labour as second, and Libs as third able to make or break the government in coalition. Which is …errr …. exactly what’s happening now.  Except doubtless they would all have had more practice at doing the post-election negotiations just a tad more quickly.

However, with this new politics of deal-making played out in public, we’ve also got some nice new phrases emerging which I can see having a shelf-life that’s longer than the next government.  We surely all want “strong and stable government in the national interest” – that’s what every party is claiming to deliver.  Was the Gordon resignation moment the “game-changer”?  My latest favourite is that variant on the Bush war phrase:  condemning the Lab-LibDem alliance as “the coalition of the losers”.

Meanwhile, what’s The Queen doing?  She had the new PM pencilled in to her diary for 11 am Friday, and she’d then have had a nice long feet-up to prepare for Her Speech in a few weeks time.  Poor love is stuck at Windsor, flicking between Sky News and Iron Chef, waiting for the phone to ring.

I think her Madge realises – having watched a dozen Prime Ministers come and go and seeing the now parlous state of the public finances – that this was actually a good election to lose.  And that fighting like cats in a bag to form the next government may actually be the wrong thing to do.  Sitting back and letting the other guys fail in office may be the wisest course.

Posted by arialbold


Filed under political coverage

11 responses to “Election News Special 2010: “Coalition of the losers”

  1. inkface

    I can’t believe (unless some class A drugs are involved) that any of the negotiators are keeping any brain cells working with clarity after such long, complicated days. I’m envisaging fetid rooms strewn with empty pizza boxes and all the men (as it seems to be) having an increasingly bleary Not the Nine o clock News union/management conversation, “Right, so, what we’ve agreed is..”

  2. Qwerty

    Ha Inky! With Mel Smith playing Gordon, Griff as Dave-Cam and Rowan Atkinson doing a bewildered Cleggy in the middle. As there don’t seem to be any women involved in this politicking, Pamela will be relegated to entering, late, in a brown wig as Sarah and complaining about the pizza mess.

    I’ve given up on rolling news; I’m just going to reply on arialbold to keep me informed.

    • arialbold

      In a lovely twisty TV thing, I think you’ll find that the classic negotiation sketch was from the first series of NTNoN and therefore featured not Griff, but Chris Langham – yes the future hapless DoSAC minister in peerless Tucker spin fest The Thick of It.

  3. pauseliveaction

    And there was a stand-up fight between Adam Boulton of Sky News and Alastair Campbell http://bit.ly/9m1Wqt

    • arialbold

      That was indeed a lovely moment. For us Skyless ones, who have to rely on YouTube, we can only imagine the joy of watching it unfold real time. I think Alastair would have had the height and reach to beat Boulton if it had come to fisticuffs, but the weight advantage in the close holds would have been with the Sky man in the blue corner.

      I’ve noticed they’re all getting a bit testy with each other (6 days of this stuff must be like A grade Columbian flake for these political mainliners) – Nick Robinson and Paddy Ashdown were going serious handbags on Radio 4 this morning.

      Mind you, all-in tag wrestling on College Green featuring pundits and the spinners while the negotiations crank into their 6th day, could be top TV to while away the hours in-between shots of Hague marching up and down Whitehall like a demented skinhead.

      • pauseliveaction

        Sky News have a little tented podium on College Green that they’ve been using to interview people on. It would make a nice boxing ring if Campbell, Boulton et al wish to sort things out under Queensberry rules. On the BBC 10pm news last night their camera was gazing up longingly at Anna Botting on her Sky podium like Juliet on her balcony.

  4. Mr F

    What I want to know is, where is Boris? – he has been very quiet. I cannot believe that any sentient LibDem would be able to resist an offer of a coalition (don’t worry about this PR thingie) involving Boris taking over from Cameron and leading us on a merry dance to the broad uplands of peace and prosperity. Once again the playing fields of Eton would be rescuing the world from tyranny. At least we could all go with a smile on our lips – whether it was with a bang or a whimper. Her Madge should insist that he has a go.

    Secondly: isn’t the whole I’m off to talk to Brown (or whoever) threat, just that. A negotiating ruse. ‘Gimme PR (or whatever) or I will go and make friends with the other lot..and where will you be then?’ It’s all visible in every school playground..

    • arialbold

      I think Boris is one of those wisely waiting on the sidelines for this all to go pear-shaped … which may still take a good few months.

      And yes indeed it is patently obvious that the Libs are running from one to the other in the Whitehall playground looking for the best deal – and if you over-play your hand and/or get caught doing that too openly, the British electorate will be mercilessly unforgiving.

  5. arialbold

    @pauseliveaction: what exactly is botting, and is it best done on a podium?

  6. arialbold

    I think the podium would reduce the risk of chaffing, so I’d go with that.