What is needed is 'stable' government - this, at least, is one thing that all of the main parties are agreed upon. But what exactly does it mean? It is clear that a Con-Dem pact would provide stability in terms of a majority government that could ensure that it gets its business done. But how long would this stability last? Does anyone seriously expect that Mr Cameron would not go to the country as soon as he felt it was advantageous for him and his party? Stability in Tory terms could easily end up being a year or eighteen months at best.
Listening to John Reid and David Blunkett the main worries over any Lib-Lab agreement appear to centre around the stability question - there simple aren't the votes there to deliver strong, stable government. I am not so sure about that. In my view what Labour should do is make clear that stability in terms of a Lab-Lib coalition is the next twelve months. Stability that can:
1. Focus on securing the recovery by implementing the first part of a budget deficit recovery plan.
2. Deliver a referendum on fundamental electoral reform.
3. Prepare the country for a second general election in May 2011.
Would the nation accept it? In my judgement they would - just about. Most people understand that there will need to be a general election sooner rather than later and would welcome the clarity of a plan that provides the stability that is needed whilst at the same time providing a road map for badly needed electoral and political reform. As to the advent of a new Labour Leader and therefore de facto a new Prime Minister again it would be easier to sell to the electorate if the commitment is for this new leader to seek his or her own mandate by holding an election at the earliest possible date.
'Stability' is important but we need to be honest as to what the reality of this modern cliche really is. A stable, focused, progressive and radical left of centre government that rules for the next twelve months is better surely than a Tory government that could well end up implementing a savage series of cuts that would put the recovery at risk and end up hitting hardest the very people that Labour has traditionally sought to defend and protect.