The spectacle of the UK general election carries on tonight into uncertainty, with the Liberal Democrats currently engaged in discussions with the Conservative party over a possible partnership in government. It's quite amazing for those of us too young to remember the last hung parliament in the 70s to see what happens when no party gains enough seats for an overall majority in the House of Commons, and it will be interesting to watch how long Gordon Brown tries to cling on to power.
Whatever the cabinet ministers pushing the "progressive majority" angle claim, the public has most definitely answered the question of whether or not they want Gordon Brown as their PM, and the Labour party lost a lot of seats last night. The Tories certainly won the election in terms of getting more seats than everyone else, even if they didn't get the magic number of 326, but their victory (if you call it that) could be cut short if Nick Clegg decides to support Brown.
The Lib Dem&s had a very disappointing night, ending up with even less seats than they previously had, and it seems that either the numerous polls over the last few weeks that showed a three horse race were severely wrong, or that when it came to actually casting their vote many of the British public bottled it and chose to stick with what they knew.
This is a shame, as I feel that out of the three parties the Lib Dem's are the best option in many areas, and Nick Clegg showed unusual moral character for a politician today when he told the world at a press conference that he would keep his word and let the Tories try to form a government if they could.
He could have easily called up Brown, who I am guessing is currently prepared to bend over backwards to get a deal with him, and jump into bed with Labour in what many would see as a progressive anti-Conservative majority. However, I am not too sure that I want to see the Lib Dem&s sign up with Labour just because they are compatible on a number of policy issues.
No matter how much I hate the Tories, and I admit I have a severe disliking for the Conservatives which may or may not be rational, I do see some positive outcomes from a Lib Dem/Tory coalition. Journalists today were talking about the differences between the parties, such as the desire for electoral reform and the question of Europe, but in fact there might be a lot of good that could come from this Faustian pact.
Of course there are many obvious policy differences between the two parties, but as the economy is such an important factor at the moment, it's totally conceivable that a Queen's Speech could be drafted around the key policy areas that the two parties agree on.
On civil liberties the two parties are on the right side of the line, in terms of opposing the National ID Card scheme and dislike of Labour's high tech surveillance state and huge databases. They both want reform of the RIPA Act, as well as other legislation related to the Big Brother government Labour has built up. The Lib Dems want to introduce a Freedom Bill to reform all the oppressive laws Labour has passed, and they are much more likely to get support on this with the current Conservative party, who also want to introduce a bill to strengthen our civil liberties.
On Europe, although the Lib Dems are seen as the most European of the big three, they are also the only ones who want to give the UK population a referendum on the question of whether we should be in the EU or out. Maybe the Tories could appreciate that. Offering the people their first real choice on European integration is no bad thing, as many within their party would like us to trade with Europe but not be run by it. If the people choose to leave the EU then the Lib Dems would have to follow our wish, and maybe the Tories could use this as an opportunity to convince the British people that we are actually better off following the lead of Norway or Switzerland, rather than ending up like Greece some time down the line.
Tax reform is also an area where a combination of the Tories' desire to reduce our huge deficit and government spending, along with the Lib Dems' natural inclination to protect the less well off and introduce a fairer tax system, could pay off. The Lib Dems could be the caring heart implanted inside the Conservatives to ensure that any reconfiguration of the nation's economy is done in the best way possible. We don't want to end up like we did in the 80s under the last Tory administration, with huge swathes of the country put on the dole for a generation.
The country is in for a tough time, and would be no matter who was in power. However, it doesn't all have to be doom and gloom - just because the "markets" want a quick decision so that big business can continue to make billions, we should take whatever time is required to get things right for our country.
A reforming coalition government that can make the public believe in politics again by introducing measures to clean up politics, restore civil liberties and create a fairer tax system could help ease the pain that we are all about to face. It would also prove that politicians can actually work together across party lines when it comes to choosing between the best interest of their party, or that of the nation.