Nick Clegg’s blind poker

In its own words, The Guardian may itself  have “over-interpreted” Nick Clegg’s refusal to negotiate with Gordon Brown if Labour comes third in the popular vote.

The Lib Dems insisted that Clegg’s remarks were being over-interpreted, and he was merely rejecting the constitutional assumption that the prime minister in the event of a hung parliament would always have the first opportunity to try to form a minority government.

And there you were, thinking that nice Nick actually meant  what he said.  So Brown or a Labour surrogate  might remain in play – but would have to take his turn after Cameron. That would put Labour at a severe disadvantage – unless Cameron turns the very idea of  electoral reform down flat. Yes indeed, unlikely.

The terrific young analyist Anthony Wells has been poring over the details of Sunday’s You Gov poll to find one explanation for why Clegg should hang loose. While around half of all party supporters dislike  a coalition,  the figure for  Lib Dems disliking a Con/LD is highest.

Asked about a Cameron led Con/LD coalition, it is less popular than a Conservative majority. Only 8% would be delighted, and 52% would be dismayed (the highest figure). The reason is 53% of Lib Dem supporters would still be dismayed by such a result, and only 6% delighted, while 33% of Conservative supporters would be dismayed by such a result. What about a Gordon Brown led Lab/LD coalition? This is slightly more popular, 10% would be delighted and 49% dismayed, but still less popular than a Labour majority. Contrast this with a Lab/LD coalition under a different Labour leader – 11% would be delighted (including 24% of Lib Dem voters), and only 43% dismayed.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London