Politics may never be the same again

IT IS October 2010. The party conferences are over and the Prime Minister is sitting in his office with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to start drawing up the 2011/2012 spending round.

They are busy assessing all the political niceties of the decisions that have to be made – for the first time since 1940 the chancellor and prime minister are from different political parties.

Vince Cable tells Gordon Brown firmly that there will have to be cuts in spending – but agrees that support for vulnerable areas of the economy needs to continue.

Could Britain really be heading for its first coalition government since the second world war after this year’s general election? If so, what would happen in the country?

The opinion polls have varied markedly over the last few weeks – but a clear trend has emerged.

The Tory lead over Labour has reduced. It probably isn’t as narrow as the two per cent shown by one poll at the weekend, but it isn’t as large as the 10-point lead they had at the start of the year.

Given that ruling parties always pick up support during an election campaign – some voters who had told themselves they will never vote for them again eventually decide better the devil they know – May’s election is bound to be the closest since 1992.

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It is very possible that no party will get an overall majority and thanks to the way the seats are stacked it is very possible that Labour will end up the largest party in the House of Commons.

If the LibDems have a large number of seats (more than 40) and the two larger parties are evenly balanced then the pressure for a coalition will be irresistible however difficult it may be to get an agreement.

The crucial issue facing the country will continue to be the state of the economy – and on this the LibDems are closer to Labour than they are to the Tories.

They may blame Labour for helping to create the conditions that got us into the mess in the first place.

And they may accept the Tory argument that the government will eventually have to cut its borrowing.

But crucially they agree with Labour that this is not the time for harsh cuts in government spending which could scythe down the green shoots before they have really started to grow.

Mr Cable is an accomplished politician who is widely respected in both the House of Commons and the City.

If the LibDems demand the keys to Number 11 Downing Street as the price for their participation in a coalition, then Gordon Brown may well feel that is worth paying.

Mr Cable would be a steady hand on the tiller and one that the prime minister could work with.

And after all the strains of the last couple of years, I can’t help wondering that if the Twickenham MP moved in next door he would get on better with him than he has recently with his current next door neighbour!

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