Former SDP/Liberal Democrat but now Blairite Labour Peer Andrew Adonis has written a book, "Five days in May," in which he describes, from the Labour Party perspective, the hapless discussions with his former party on the remote possibility of a Lib-lab coalition after the 2010 election. Based on his experience of the total unpreparedness of the Labour Party for such discussions, he very sensibly suggests that all parties should prepare their positions for negotiation in the event that the next election produces a balanced parliament in which no party has an over-all majority. Fine as far as it goes, but in my view it is equally necessary to dispense with the expectation that, when there is a change of government , the old prime minister leaves No 10 by the back door and the new one moves in by the front on the very day after the election, or as soon as possible thereafter
In his interview with the Guardian to publicise his book, Lord Adonis speaks of "the extent to which media and market pressures forced a rate of deliberation that now seems simply reckless" during the coalition negotiations of 2010.
How true, but even when there is no change of government, it is foolish and unnecessary to expect the prime minister, old or new, to make crucial decisions regarding the composition of the next government whilst in a state of exhaustion after a gruelling election. After all, in the the United States three months is routine whatever the outcome. In many counties when a balanced parliament ensues negotiations can continue for months without any breakdown in confidence.
In Britain I suggest we now adopt a convention by which the former government, defeated or not, continues as a "caretaker" period of at least 10 days after an election. Even when there is a "decisive" result this will give time for the wining party leader to form or reform the new government after proper reflection.
After a balanced result there will be time for more careful consideration of proposed coalition agreements and so avoid the obvious flaws in the present one: in particular the assumption by Liberal Democrats, understandable but now seen to be naive, that in agreeing to put forward proposals for both electoral and Lords reform the Tories would actually vote for them.
In addition to making the contacts suggested by Lord Adonis, Liberal democrat "apparatchiks" should now be working with those of the other parties to seek agreement to such a convention, which should be announced well before May 2015, and apply whatever the outcome.
Peter Wrigley has fought four Westminster and one European election for the Liberals/Liberal Democrats. He is now reduced to delivering leaflets and is Hon. President of the Batley and Spen local party - Peter blogs at keynesianliberal.blogspot.com
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