RECENT opinion polls are showing the Tory lead over Labour ranging from two to 11 points but averaging at seven points. This indicates that after the coming 2010 general election we are very likely to have a hung parliament, with no party having an overall majority.
Senior Whitehall civil servants have drafted a contingency plan that Brown would remain as Prime Minister — and possibly Alistair Darling would stay as Chancellor — for three weeks given the task of organising negotiations between the three main parties — and some of the fringe parties, to produce a government led by Labour or the Tories plus allies from the other parties that would win a majority of MPs’ votes for its first Queen’s Speech.
This three-week period of calm, they hope, would prevent a constitutional crisis with a stock market crash or run on the pound that would arise from a period of uncertainty with no definite government. Parliament would not meet during this interim period.
Civil servants would assist the negotiations with out making any comments on policies, except to advise party leaders of areas of policy overlap with other parties.
This would give Brown time to negotiate a working majority even if the Tories won more seats. It would also lessen the prospects of having to call another general election quickly after the first.
If no viable government emerges within 18 days, the Tories would be able to table a motion of no confidence.
This will work slightly in Labour’s favour and could produce a new Labour-Liberal Democrat alliance. The Liberal Democrats are currently saying they will make no deals with anyone but, for them, it would be a tactical mistake to show any preference before the election result is known.
But a Labour-led government with strong Lib-Dem support would be very likely to take Britain into the euro-zone; a Tory government could not possibly do so.
But given the rest of the Tories’ policies it would be a serious mistake to support them just to keep Britain out of the euro-zone.
The first of four major television debates was screened on Channel Four earlier this week — this one between the Alistair Darling and the shadow chancellors: Tory George Osborne and Lib-Dem Vince Cable about the three parties’ economic proposals.
They argued over the rise in National Insurance contributions announced in last week’s budget.
Darling and Cable agreed that Osborne’s arithmetic was flawed but the general view was that all three were keeping quiet about the real level of cuts that they would be likely to bring in after the election.
They all talked about “efficiency savings” in the public sector and this is code for cutting public sector jobs and services.
The current battle within the ruling class between the pro-European camp and the pro-American camp took a new turn this week as the Government’s media watchdog, ofcom, ruled that Sky television — owned by the ultra pro-American media baron Rupert Murdoch — should sell on its rights to screen major sporting events, especially football, to other TV channels at retail prices.
Up to now Sky has used its huge Murdoch finance reserves to do mutually very lucrative deals with sporting bodies like the Football Association and refuse to allow other channels to show the events unless they pay an exorbitant price. Sky plans to appeal against the ruling.
Sky TV has recently become far more blatantly pro-Tory in its news coverage, becoming more like its very pro-Republican American sister channel Fox News.
But the Murdoch media machine no longer seems to be having the same impact on public opinion polls as it did in 1992, when Labour lost a general election and the Sun newspaper claimed: “It’s the Sun wot won it!”
There has been a significant shift since then in more people getting their news from the internet and in that area the Murdoch empire is shooting itself in the foot by planning to charge for access to its news pages. People will just get their news elsewhere.
We are at last seeing the beginning of the decline of this vile right-wing empire and a defeat for Cameron at the coming election would be another nail in its coffin.