The idea of a hung parliament is now not only possible but is slipping into being acceptable, at least to some. So far up the agenda has it leapt that the new, more positive, term ‘balanced parliament’ is creeping into widespread use.
The idea of a badly hung parliament is grounded in reality – the British system it has usually meant dirty deals and corrupt compromises. You only have to look at the brazen statements from the Nationalist parties that they would use a hung parliament to blackmail extra resources for “their” people (and by implication, the rest of you can go hang). No-one sensible would want to see such crass pork-barrel politics dictating national policy.
But a balanced parliament, and coalition government, seems not only possible but actually inevitable – if not this time then soon.
The two main parties share of the vote has been in decline since its high point in 1951 – the rise of Lib-Dems is only the latest surge in the rise of non-two-party votes. The idea that any single party can claim legitimacy on only 40% or so of the poll – at best – is fast disappearing. Some form of voting reform seems inevitable, and when it happens no one party is ever likely to be able to rule alone again.
So rather than fighting it, our leaders ought to accept it is going to happen sooner or later and start having grown-up discussions about what would happen. How would coalitions be formed? Should alliances be shaped before or after the Polls? How can we strengthen the role of parliament against the executive so we don’t just have a more balanced parliament but a more balanced government? Instead of worrying about a badly hung parliament they should be thinking, and talking, about how to build a well hung one.