Nick Clegg said before the election that the party with the most seats and biggest share of the vote deserves the first crack at forming a Government. Well, that’s his opinion. I’m not sure that anything in our unwritten Constitution says so. Indeed, the Constitution requires the incumbent to stay put for now.
In his first statement after the election Nick Clegg stuck to his line and said “It's now for the Conservative party to prove it is capable of governing in the national interest." David Cameron held out the olive branch to the LibDems and they’re talking, but the LibDems are also listening to Labour. Clegg has tried to paint it as pressure on Cameron, but I believe there is much more pressure on him.
The LibDems have always put Proportional Representation at the top of their list of priorities so that the number of MPs they get is representative of their support across the Country. Gordon Brown has offered immediate legislation if Clegg brings LibDem support to him, but Cameron has only offered all-party discussions on electoral reform (publicly at least). Also, the LibDems are a left of centre party just like Labour so most of their supporters would be much more comfortable working with Labour rather than the Conservatives.
The Electoral maths is pretty tricky. A Tory-LibDem coalition of some sort would have 363 seats, comfortably past the 326 winning line and 59% of the popular vote. If Clegg did turn to Labour they’d still represent 52% of the popular vote but would only have 315 seats. Could they rely on a collection of other parties to put together a stable Government united only by being anti-Tory?
Under PR, the current results would have been interpreted as follows:
I rather doubt we’d get the same results if PR had been used because tactical voting would be rather different, but working with the outcome above, a hung Parliament becomes the natural state of play. In that scenario it comes down to the LibDems as the third party who most probably hold the balance of power. Thus it is actually up to Nick Clegg and his party to demonstrate that they can be accommodative in a support role as members of a coalition. If they can’t do that, how do they hope to persuade the country that PR would be a better electoral system for Britain?