Having spent last week on a walking holiday with French friends in the Isle of Wight I have missed the blow by blow accounts of political developments in what has probably been the most exciting political week of my adult life. " La loi de l'emmerdement maximum," as the French would so graphically put it.
On one thing I should like further and better particulars: who scuppered the possibility of a "progressive alliance" between Liberal Democrats, Labour and other moderately left-wing parties? Was it the Liberal Democrats, who, Labour claim, were really only interested in a deal with the Tories, and used the rather feeble excuse that the "body language" of the Labour negotiating team was all wrong. Or was it Labour, whose "Neanderthal tendency," to quote Polly Toynbee "emerged roaring opposition" as "David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw, Diane Abbott...reminded the world how backward , how unrogressive, tribal and sectarian much of the People's Party still is."(Guardian 12/05/10)
Although this detail will be of interest only to we political anoraks, I look forward to a definitive account of these negotiations. Until such is produced, for my own self respect I shall choose to believe the Toynbee version, for which there is a good deal of historical precedent. For almost half a century local government elections have frequently produced balanced councils. In such circumstances the Liberal/Liberal democrat custom has been to offer to work with all other parties in an all-party administration. Labour council groups have more often that not refused, thus forcing Conservative/Liberal administrations. Like some small boys, Labour will only play the game when it conforms to their rules. When it doesn't they take their bat home.
Perhaps the truth is that there was no betrayal, as parliamentary arithmetic made a "Rainbow Coalition" unviable. I believe it was Blunkettt who pointed out that, on average four MPs die every year. Thus any progressive alliance would have been fighting for its life in by-elections every three months.