I was only campaigning for the General Election during the last week, but staying up for nearly thirty hours on election day left me slightly groggy. Meanwhile after the utter exhaustion of months of campaigning- David Cameron apparently solidly for the last two days- our political leaders have been plunged into a process that requires acute political judgement. David Laws looks like he has lost about 15 kilos- I suspect that none of the figures now being forced to discuss the formation of the next government are in particularly great shape.
Nevertheless the Liberal Democrats have a particular responsibility. Even though the result looks disappointing compared to the polls during the campaign, it still led to many thousands more people voting Liberal Democrat compared to 2005. The same number of votes, differently distributed could have given 10 more seats or 10 less- the electoral system does not reflect the democratic will: it is a lottery. It must be changed.
The question is whether David Cameron fully understood that when he made his offer of a coalition to the Liberal Democrats. Without electoral reform, the Liberal Democrats as a party can not enter into any arrangement with any other party. If David Cameron does not accept this, then he can not rely on the support of the Liberal Democrats. The Labour Party- leaderless and defeated is not the ideal party for the Liberal Democrats to work with. The numbers, even with Nationalist and Green support, are pretty poor, but immediate legislation to reform the voting system is a real prospect.
Nevertheless, in my judgement it was and is right to give the right to form a government to Mr. Cameron, particularly when it was obvious that Gordon Brown should not stay on as Prime Minister. Even though a Rainbow coalition of Labour-Liberal Democrat-Green-Nationalist-Aliiance-SDLP etc. is a theoretical possibility, it is a practical nightmare. The Conservatives are prepared to form a common platform on economic issues, and there is a clear agenda to do this.
However the sticking point remains: electoral reform. polling nearly a quarter of the vote but getting less than 10% of the seats is a travesty, and the Liberal Democrats can not accept the status quo.
Can Mr. Cameron bring his party with him on electoral reform? Does he even want to?
We will know within a couple of days I guess.