Tumultuous negotiations in Britain 

Tumultuous times in Britain: today the Liberal Democrats, who won just 57 seats in the House of Commons in last Thursday’s election, started negotiating with the Labour party, which won 258, even as they continued to negotiate with the Conservatives, who won 306 (and will win a 307th when the election postponed in one district takes place May 27). And Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he will resign as the leader of the Labour party. A Con-Lib coalition would have more than the 326-seat majority; a Lab-Lib coalition would have less. If the latter coalition comes to pass, Brown could remain prime minister until September, since it takes months for the Labour party’s leadership contest to take place. To keep track of the latest developments, check these running blogs in the Telegraph, the Times and Conservative Home. If you get up at 7am Eastern Time Tuesday morning, it will be noon in London—a good time to check them out.

The reason a Lab-Lib coalition is attractive to the Lib Dems is that it could give them their number one demand: proportional representation voting. This is something Labour has never been interested in before, because the current system favors Labour very much and Conservatives somewhat less, and proportional representation would leave Lib Dems choosing who governs the country and on what terms for the foreseeable future--at least so long as the voting patterns of the last 20 years prevail. My own sense is that a Lab-Lib government ultimately won't happen, because (1) it would not have a majority in the Commons, (2) it would reward the two parties which lost seats last Thursday, (3) it would maintain an unpopular prime minister in office for at least four more months. But the situation looks more fluid than I expected when I left London Saturday.

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Michael Barone

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