Some disorganised thoughts from me, that may or may not add up to a coherent whole. For those looking for a more thought-through opinion on all this, I suggest visiting the Lib Dem Blogs aggregator and working through the entries there. Or take a look at this Dutch perspective on the situation.

I can remember approaching the 2008 elections here in Colchester and we were looking at the prospects of what might happen afterwards. Out of all the possible results, it seemed that the one with the four groups at 27-23-7-3 would be the hardest to find a solution from. So obviously, that was the result we got. This seems like a similar position – the Conservatives where they can’t comfortably form a minority Government, and the combined Liberal Democrat-Labour position doesn’t result in a majority. While we did find a solution in Colchester, this does seem like a much more difficult position to resolve.

Mathematically, a Labour-Liberal Democrat combination, while it doesn’t lead to a majority, isn’t as weak as it might seem. Given that they could rely on the SDLP and Alliance MPs, they’d have 319 to the 307 Tories (assuming they hold Thirsk and Malton in three weeks) and it’s likely that they could get the support of enough from the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Green and independent Unionist MPs to counter the likely Tory-DUP alliance. However, while that might seem possible from a blank slate, given the history and politics involved, it’d be an incredibly difficult solution to sell to the people, especially if it involved Gordon Brown remaining in office, even before you get to the whole issue of Labour’s authoritarian tendencies on civil liberties.

Some have suggested Gordon Brown, or perhaps some other figure, as effectively a caretaker PM for twelve months while this rainbow coalition pushes through a wide-ranging political reform package before a new election. However, to get this through, the wafer-thin majority in the Commons would require Brown to deliver the entire Labour Party through the Aye lobby, and there’s enough of a draconian tendency there to scupper any part of the reform package in favour of keeping their safe seats. There’s also the question of whether a Government made up of so many parties and with a small majority could push through any tough economic decisions that were required.

The problem with a Liberal-Conservative coalition is… well, you can finish that sentence in a number of ways, from a number of different perspectives and almost all of them would be correct. While it seems that Cameron and Clegg might get on personally, the rest of their parties don’t and trying to get through those decades of distrust, contempt and outright hatred at times is not going to be easy, if it’s even possible at all. However, to even get to that point, there has to be a resolution on the issue of electoral reform first.

Whatever happens, I think the media will get their ‘angry Lib Dems quit party’ story – not just people disgruntled at teaming up with one party or another, but even if he finds a way to not choose either, someone will doubtless get themselves their fifteen minutes of fame by claiming we should have done a deal and walk off in a huff because we didn’t.

I know I couldn’t support any coalition deal with any party that doesn’t have a clear and timetabled commitment to a referendum on electoral reform. Not just a Blair-esque ‘we’ll have a referendum at some point in the future’ promise but a definite date by which said referendum will happen. Without that sort of commitment, I can’t see how Clegg and his negotiators could get the backing of the Parliamentary Party or the Federal Executive for a coalition, let alone survive a party conference. Electoral reform is a fundamental part of the Liberal Democrats’ raison d’etre and it’s not something we’d give up on for a few ministerial cars.

However, I do think there is a way for Cameron to get round it, if he can sell it to his party. Remember that our demand is not for the Government to force through electoral reform itself, just a referendum on it. If the Conservatives feel so strongly about it, and think they’re right, then why should they shy away from putting that argument to the people and asking them to decide? Sure, have a committee of inquiry to decide what should be put to the public, but that committee has to have a deadline by which it must report it’s recommendations to Parliament, which will then agree a referendum. I’ve already heard a comparison made to the 1975 referendum on the Common Market where members of the same party campaigned on different sides of the issue yet were able to come together again afterwards.

Of course, even if that can be agreed, then we’ll turn to the rest of the agreement and what sort of policy commitments it requires, but that won’t happen until after the electoral reform question is settled.

Finally, the other option that’s not been brought up much is the possibility of some form of grand coalition or government of national unity. If talks between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives do break down then that might become the only workable option remaining on the table, but that’s something I’ll write more about if we get to that position.

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As the battlebuses pull into their last stops, and the last hordes of activists run through ever-darkening streets to push that one last leaflet that might make the difference through that one last letterbox, the election finally gets handed over to the voters. Yes, at last we’ll get the answer to the question that’s been bugging us for the the past weeks, months, and years – which polling company is the most accurate? Oh, there’ll be something about a new Government at the end of it too, but that’s less important, surely.

Still, if you see your vote as being something more than doing what a random sample of people tells you, have some links. Angry Mob believe that a vote for the Liberal Democrats is telling the Daily Mail where to go. Writing for the Guardian’s Science section, Martin Robbins assesses the evidence about the parties’ science policies and states:

Which leads me to emerge from two weeks buried in paperwork and political promises to find myself at this conclusion. If I were to cast my vote based purely on science, it would be for the Liberal Democrats, for Nick Clegg and for Evan Harris.

It’s the last day of the campaign, so a couple of final digs at David Cameron. Duncan Stott wonders just what sort of interviews he prefers. And David Schneider has a final warning:

And one last video:

And no, when I sent that tweet to Justin a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t expect it to inspire so much.

As for my day, another 350 or so leaflets delivered, which takes me up to 3,800 for the campaign. Was expecting to do even more than that, but after I’d done my assigned delivery, I found out that the rest of the constituency had all been done, so I could relax for the evening. Nice to have so many volunteers, and it should make it good fun tomorrow to have a lot of people around to help get the vote out. I’m up bright and early tomorrow to do the first canvassing shift at my local polling station, and by the time the count has finished, I’ll have likely been up for over 20 hours. Not quite as much as I managed in 1997, but back then I didn’t have to go to another count – for the local elections – the day after.

Blog posting may be understandably light tomorrow, but I will likely be twittering quite a lot.

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David Cameron in the Prime Ministerial debate on 22nd April:

I just think it is disgraceful to try and frighten people in an election campaign… You should not be frightening people in an election campaign, it is just not
right.

Latest Tory election broadcast, 26th April - three minutes of fearmongering about how a hung parliament would wreck the country, with not one mention of a Tory policy.

Simple question, Mr Cameron – is trying to frighten people in an election campaign right or not right?

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Here’s a chance for the BBC to show true political impartiality – next Monday, from 8.30 to 9pm, they should show Jeremy Paxman sitting quietly in a chair with an empty chair opposite him. Occasionally, they could flash up the caption ‘You’re watching a Panorama special: Jeremy Paxman interviewing David Cameron. David Cameron has declined to appear. Next week, we’ll do the same with Gordon Brown if he doesn’t turn up.’

Of course, they could just reshow his interview with Nick Clegg. I’m sure there are many creative ways to fill the empty half hour of TV.

Talking of Nick Clegg:

Yes, today’s main election news story was the launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, which (with fingers crossed and wood touched) seems to have gone rather well, with a great reaction from the press and other commenters. My favourite? A tie between Ben Goldacre‘s ‘Lib Dems giant win on science‘ (echoed by the Times here) and Greenpeace’s executive director John Sauven describing it as “the most progressive environmental policies of all the major parties“.

In short, a rather good day for the Liberal Democrats, capped off by a great performance from Nick Clegg, which bodes well for the debates, particularly his grasp of the detail of the party’s policies. Tomorrow night’s debate could make for some very interesting viewing.

Meanwhile, campaigning goes on here in Colchester. Unfortunately, a couple of long meetings this afternoon meant I couldn’t get out on the doorstep today, but got out this morning to deliver 120 more leaflets, taking my total up to 120. And without being on the doorstep, I still managed to pick us up another vote – the first I’ve ever done through Twitter. After talking about how the Lib Dem broadcast embedded above features Brian Eno’s ‘An Ending (Ascent)’ (and you can hear the album Apollo that it comes from on Spotify), my friend Frank (author of the excellent TV blog Cathode Ray Tube) Tweeted how that was the final clincher for him to reject the Labservatives.

22 days to go, and less than 24 hours until the first debate begins and we wait to see just how it effects the election. But I’m sure the news channels will have journalists talking to other journalists within moments of it finishing to tell us exactly what we thought about it.

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‘But what were his policies? What did he stand for?’
‘I don’t know…he just seemed kind of nice.’ Duh-duh-duh-dum.

Yes, the Doctor Who tendency strikes again. After a Labour Party film with a voiceover by David Tennant directly references Jon Pertwee, the BBC headline the Conservative manifesto launch with the headline Saxon-esque Cameron ‘to make Britain better’. Yes, this country is sick, this country needs healing, this country needs medicine…and sometime in early May the sky will tear asunder and our descendents will come down from the sky to kill us, possibly for silently enduring such a bland election campaign.

So, the speculation for tomorrow is whether Nick Clegg and Vince Cable will decide to re-enact The Two Doctors for the Lib Dem manifesto launch. It’ll be interesting to see what the ‘I’m bored of politicians in grey suits’ complainers say when they see Nick Clegg in Colin Baker’s costume.

Lib Dem Voice has details of the policy debates the BBC will be showing on weekday afternoons from next Monday. While the presence of Andrew Neil is one reason not to watch them, the lineup for the immigration debate on May 4th looks like it’ll generate 45 minutes of pretty repugnant TV with Damian Green and Sarah Teather probably gazing in shock from the sidelines as Phil Woolas and Lord Pearson engage in a frenzied race to the bottom as they attempt to see who can demonise the most foreigners per minute.

Back in the delivery swing down here in Colchester today, with another 350 of them delivered this morning, though the majority of those were to flats, which makes it a lot easier, especially when all the letterboxes are on the outside of the building. Had a meeting late this afternoon, but still got out knock on 25 doors this evening before it started getting a bit too cold and looking like rain to start off on another street. So, my totals are 1370 leaflets and 115 doors so far.

Seems like this has been going on for ages, doesn’t it? So it was a bit odd to remember this morning that it was only a week ago that Gordon Brown went to the Palace…and there are still over three weeks left.

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Roy Greenslade wonders why no one in the media other than the Guardian is making a big deal about this story:

Imagine The Guardian being required to pay out £800,000 to a journalist because its editor had been exposed as a bully. You can bet that would have made headlines in rival papers.

So why, I wonder, was The Guardian the only national paper to report on the fact that former News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll was awarded almost £792,736 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal?

Yet it must surely be in the public interest for people to know about misbehaviour by Britain’s best-selling newspaper, which is renowned for its own heavy-handed treatment of those it considers to have acted immorally.

Similarly, since the editor said to have carried out the bullying is none other than Andy Coulson, now the communications chief for the Conservative party leader, David Cameron, there was a powerful secondary reason for the case to be reported as a matter of public interest.

But it is becoming more and more apparent that most of the national press is now involved in a routine cover-up about its internal affairs, especially when the stories concern the News of the World’s owner, News International.

Well, surely this is a role for the blogs to take up – after all, we’re told repeatedly that they’ll go where the mainstream media won’t, and will dig up the important issue without fear or favour and expose them to the public eye.

Greenslade does mention some blogs that have covered it (The First Post, allmediascotland and Peter Burden) but surely it must be more widespread than that?

I mean, I’m sure Guido Fawkes Paul Staines must have something to say about. After all (when he’s not being an expensive postman for Tory MPs) he’s the scourge of the hypocrisy of the political classes, and he’d surely have something to say about David Cameron employing a proven bully in a senior role. Nope, nothing there. I guess he must not have heard of the story.

Iain Dale, though, he must have mentioned it. After all, this is the man who presents himself as a leading political blogger, never afraid to comment on anything for anyone. And yes, his current top post is about personnel changes at the Telegraph, so he obviously likes to comment on the inner workings of the print media…but oddly, he has nothing to say about his party leader’s personnel decisions.

Indeed, when I look at the top ten Conservative bloggers from Dale’s list, the only mention I can find of the whole thing is a solitary link from Conservative Home to the story in The First Post.

Does this not worry any Conservatives at all? Does the fact that one of their leader’s most important aides led ‘a culture of bullying’ in his previous job not concern them? Does the fact that his actions (remember that he was also in charge of the NOTW during the phone jacking scandal) have cost his previous employer around £2m in damages not make you stop and think as to whether he should hold an important senior role in your party?

And what does this say about David Cameron? Here’s someone claiming that he should be Prime Minister, yet one of the Prime Minister’s roles is to appoint the right people to the right positions. Given that he’s appointed someone of the calibre of Coulson to a senior role in opposition, what sort of people might he appoint if he got his hands on some real power? Or are the Tories taking the bold move of coming out in favour of workplace bullying?

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