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John Rentoul: What did Clegg say?

Posted by Eagle Eye
  • Monday, 23 November 2009 at 03:30 pm
Much excitement about about a hung parliament after one opinion poll showing the Conservative lead down to six points. My esteemed rival Andrew Rawnsley even devoted his column yesterday to the subject.

As Nick Robinson suggests, we should remember Twyman’s Law of market research:

“Whenever a result is interesting or unusual, it is usually wrong.”

All the same, we can dream, can't we? Especially those of us who want to see Gordon Brown replaced by David Miliband or Alan Johnson before the election. (Interesting, was it not, that Brown was reported to have tried twice to persuade Miliband to take the Europe foreign affairs job? That suggests that the Prime Minister is aware that Miliband is a threat to his position.)

But what would NIck Clegg do if no party had a majority in the House of Commons?

The Liberal Democrats would support whichever party wins the most seats.

So reported Michael Savage in today's Independent. Really? I checked the transcript of his interview with Andrew Marr yesterday:

It’s just stating the obvious, that the party which has got the strongest mandate from the British people will have the first right to seek to govern either on its own or reach a … It’s not Gordon Brown or David Cameron or Nick Clegg, who are sort of kingmakers in British politics. It’s the British people. So the votes of the British people should determine what happens afterwards.

But what is the "strongest mandate"? Is it measured in seats or share of the vote? In practical terms, Savage is right, in that it is seats that matter; but then Clegg muddies it a little by talking of votes. Is that votes as translated into seats, or as measured by a national percentage? It is unlikely to matter, because if there is a hung parliament, the Conservatives are likely to have more vote and more seats than Labour.

But first Labour has to change leader.

Photograph: Rex Features
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