Friday, 7 May 2010

Crystal ball or book?

Nick Clegg's short intervention this morning - that the party with most votes and seats, the Conservatives, should seek to form a government - could be a hint that things are moving faster than they might seem.

The assumption has been that the Lib Dems key demand - an agreement to, at the very least, a referendum on PR - is anathema to the Tories and effectively rules out any coalition between them. Certainly, that was the assumption of this morning's 0810 interviews on BBC Radio 4's Today - and with good reason.

Need that be so? And need we spend too much time looking at the crystal ball?

The 2008 election in New Zealand provides a good example of a 'confidence and supply' agreement; an agreement between parties - none of whom has an overall majority - in order to form a stable government but which does not tie the partners together as tightly as a formal coalition with a single, agreed, full legislative programme.

The basis of 'confidence and supply' is, very crudely, that the smaller partner agrees not to vote against the incoming government's Queen's Speech or a confidence motion nor to vote against supply measures, enabling the government to pay its bills and raise credit.

In the case of New Zealand, the centre-right National Party - which was the biggest party, three seats short of an outright majority - drew up a 'confidence and supply' agreement with the (broadly) Liberal ACT.

Its preamble is interesting:

"Recognising that National and ACT have a duty to give effect to the will of the people as expressed at the general election, in particular the strong mandate for a change in New Zealand’s economic and social directions ..."

Remind you of anything?

And here's something else to think about. What if part of a 'confidence and supply' deal between David Cameron and Nick Clegg is that the Tory leader agrees that a vote in parliament for a referendum on PR isn't a confidence measure ....?

We'll know, I guess, at 2.30.

1 comment:

Andy Tedd said...

on the money, as ever...