Post-election, pre-coalition blues

[This is a piece I wrote in 2010, and then failed to publish to the blog.  I was going to simply delete it, then thought, 'What the heck', so here it is]

Somehow, in seriousness, despite being a wealthy, upper-class, Eton- and Oxford-educated white male of royal lineage, David Cameron implored the British electorate to "Vote For Change". What he clearly meant was "Vote For A Change Back To The Old Days Of Being Governed By The Landed Gentry". The sheer audacity of his proposition made me wonder we weren't better off just returning to the whim of government by hereditary monarchy.

Of course, being nothing if not scaredy-sheep, the voters of Middle England and the Home Counties did just as he told them to, with one or two exceptions, returning most of England to the colour blue.

The surge in Liberal Democrat support predicted by countless opinion polls never happened. Indeed, the party lost two of its most best-known MPs: the media-friendly Lembit Opik and the rare voice of rational science in the Commons, Dr Evan Harris. Was this the media over-playing the significance of their own surveys, or a last-minute loss of nerve by many voters? Probably a bit of both, but whatever the story, the increase in the LibDem vote was paltry, and they ended up with five fewer seats.

What they did acquire, however, was the potential for a pivotal role in the new parliament.

To my mind, the best bet for the LibDems is to decline Cameron's offer of coalition, but offer to support his minority government wherever appropriate. This might turn out to be very rarely indeed, depending on how far the Tories revert to type, but that wouldn't be the LibDems fault, or responsibility. If Cameron's Conservatives were genuinely, broadly popular, they would have won more seats.