What’s changed and what hasn’t after yesterday?
Posted on 11 May 2010 | 8:05am
After all the drama and excitement of yesterday, some things have changed and some haven’t. GB signalling his departure as Labour leader is a change, though one that should not have been hugely unexpected given the election result which was, in its own way, a rejection of all three leaders – GB who as PM could not secure a majority, David Cameron as the man who blew a huge lead, Nick Clegg who looked to be on for big gains which never materialised.
So that change means a new Labour leader by the autumn, though none of us know whether that will be in or out of office.
The other change is the establishment of formal talks between the Liberal Democrats and Labour. These began last night.
The thing which has not changed is the range of options still available – a minority Tory government, some kind of coalition or arrangement between Tories and Lib Dems, some kind of coalition or arrangement between Labour and Lib Dems.
I have no idea which of those three is currently likeliest to emerge.
It is less than a week since many were telling pollsters that they wanted the outcome of the election to be a hung Parliament. Many are now wondering, it would seem, whether in reality that is what they want now they see what it means.
But the politicians do have to respond to the verdict the electorate has given and that is what is happening.
I thought GB did well yesterday. As Nick Clegg said immediately afterwards, it cannot have been an easy statement to make but he made it well.
The way many in the media and public talk of politicians, all they see are self-serving plotters and schemers interested only in status, power and advancement. I think Gordon has genuinely been driven in politics by a deep belief in social justice, and in recent days by a clear commitment to seeking to make sense of the result in a way that serves the national interest.
None of that means he cannot be difficult or that there were not times when, in my time with TB, he made life more difficult than it should have been. But I think he conducted himself with real dignity and a rather inspiring nobility yesterday.
It was very odd for me to be back in Downing Street for a few days, once it was clear he wanted to keep some of the election team for political and strategic advice in the aftermath of the results. But when he came back into the office after delivering his statement, his staff applauded him, and he responded, in a way that was really moving.
As you may have seen, I went from there to do a number of interviews. Most posed this question about the process GB had started leading to a second ‘unelected Prime Minister’ if the Lib-Lab coalition materialises, and GB makes way for a successor.
It is worth remembering that this is a Parliamentary democracy not a Presidential system. There are many precedents – most recently of course GB but not long before that John Major, and before that Jim Callaghan – of PMs who became PM as the result of being elected leader by their parties not the public.
Of course in an ideal world any PM would first be elected by the public. That sense has perhaps been exacerbated by the TV debates. But for all the attention they got, people voted for candidates and our system says the PM comes from the grouping of candidates which forms a majority in government. So that is the other thing which has not changed – it will be either DC or GB, though GB will be gone by the autumn come what may, and before that of course if David Cameron becomes PM any time soon on his own or with the Liberals.
But I go back to the central point – nobody won. That was the public verdict.
It is entirely possible we will still have a Cameron Premiership but he did not win it on the results alone. And part of the reason for the Lib Dems also wanting to talk to Labour is the genuine anger many Lib Dem voters feel that they voted to stop Cameron not help him in.
I accept that many people voted against Labour. But many voted for progressive parties not conservative ones and it is worth a shot to see if they can build that progressive majority.
I was somewhat taken aback to be the only Labour figure trending on twitter an hour or so after the announcement and the reason – Adam Boulton – was trending all night. Justin Bieber eat your heart out.
Adam gets very touchy at any suggestion that he is anything other than an independent, hugely respected, totally impartial and very important journalist whose personal views never see the light of day, and who works for an organisation that is a superior form of public service than anything the BBC can deliver.
I leave you to make your own judgement what our interview yesterday says about that. I did not have time last night to read the hundreds of comments on here, Facebook and twitter, but the kindest seemed to suggest he needs a rest – we all do – but the bulk seemed to feel his ranting and raving might suggest I had a point, which I made – for me – rather calmly.
* Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour http://www.alastaircampbell.org/bookshop.php.