Sinn Fein wins boost Cameron’s cause

The polls seem to be settling in favour of a Conservative minority government. Almost as interesting is the race for second. If the Tories reach the threshold of 300 seats, I bet Cameron will defy the others to bring him down and will do no upfront deal with anybody. 4 or 5 Sinn Fein wins reduces the magic threshold of 326 for an overall majority and eases his problem a mite. Fewer than 300 opens the door either to the possibility of electoral reform or weak minority government . But the more I look at it, the gap between the Tories and  the “progressive consensus ” of Labour and the Lib Dems looks very hard to bridge. The Lib Dems will have to do extraordinarily well to overcome the Tories’ deep self interest in clinging to first-past-the-post and the moral advantage they’d hold by coming first in votes and seats.

What are blogs for if they’re not alternative? With the Guardian coming out for the Lib Dems ( but for electoral reform first) I’m looking for chinks on the anti-Brown armour.

First, the headline polls don’t indicate Labour collapse- yet. Nor do voters seem much worried by the Duffy gaffe in spite of the media’s feeding frenzy.

Secondly,  those fierce defenders of first-past-the-post the Conservatives could hardly object  if Brown with most seats bids to form a government.

 If we end up with that, then we will form the government and Gordon stays,” one said. “The electoral system is the electoral system.” Another traditionalist view was expressed by a senior union leader who told The Times that, in the event of a hung Parliament, Labour should “call Nick Clegg’s bluff”. If the Lib Dems wanted to make a deal with Mr Cameron, he added, “let them, because it will show them up for what they are”.

By backing the Lib Dems the Guardian is taking a big risk with its own cause.

.…reform is overwhelmingly more likely to be achieved by a Lib Dem partnership of principle with Labour than by a Lib Dem marriage of convenience with a Tory party which is explicitly hostile to the cause and which currently plans to redraw the political map for its own advantage. The momentum for change would be fatally undermined should the Conservatives win an overall majority

Irish politics show that pre-electoral understandings are much easier when voters aren’t compelled to plump for the single candidate of FPTP, because voters can opt for both parties at once. But that choice is missing in the present UK system. That makes Thursday ‘s result subject to the biggest lottery of our lifetimes. It ‘s game on for a classic MU finish – unless the weekend polls record the first Conservative surge of the year.

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