A threeway race for 10 Downing Street, the coveted central London home-office of the British PM, heated up on Tuesday after the leader of the Liberal Democrats signalled his willingness to support a minority Conservative government with just two days to polling day.
In remarks made ahead of Thursday’s election that is expected to be a hung parliament, Clegg not only dropped any preconditions to supporting a Conservative minority government, but also urged that party not to “turn up their noses.”
“I think that’s a recipe for profound political and social tensions,” he told the Financial Times.
“Do they really think they can deliver those difficult changes by just turning up their noses at the result on Thursday and saying they have a right to govern regardless?” Clegg asked.
The Lib Dem leader recanted his previous insistence on electoral reforms — including the introduction of proportional representation — as a precondition to talks about supporting a government.
“I’ve never talked about preconditions,” he said. “What I’ve said is it’s unavoidable.”
Opinion polls have consistently handed first place to the Conservatives, Britain’s largest party in opposition, with the Liberal Democrats close behind and ruling Labour trailing at third position. But due to the anomalies in the sizes of constituencies, Labour could win more seats than either the Conservatives or the Lib Dems in spite of finishing third.
In a country unused to hung parliaments — the last one was in 1974 — that is a troubling scenario, which has had constitutional experts scratching their heads and opposition politicians fuming in frustration.
Conservative leader David Cameron, looking and sounding increasingly prime ministerial as the election campaign has progressed, was on Tuesday reported to be contemplating ignoring guidelines for government formation in the event of a hung parliament. Under draft guidelines, there is a 19-day gap between polling day and inauguration of the new parliament.
The Conservatives suspect Labour could use this window to strike backroom deals and cobble up a coalition with the Lib Dems.