Yards of Speculation
John Lanchester · Market Chaos Imminent
As far as I can tell, there’s very little actual news at all in the papers today. Yards of speculation and comment, but hardly any actual news.
The only thing I can find is a Sunday Times report that the Lib Dems and Tories are discussing a ‘preferendum’, to set a menu of options for electoral reform before voters. This would happen during the next Parliament, as a precursor to a referendum on whichever specific reform the voters chose:
Tory sources insisted their proposal was a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for the Lib Dems. Under the detailed plans, expected to be tabled today, the new committee would be ordered to issue its conclusions well before the end of the parliament. The Tories believe this would allay Lib Dem fears that PR would be kicked into the long grass.
The Lib Dems would have a say in the membership of the committee and its exact terms of reference. These details would be determined in advance as part of the coalition negotiations, according to Tory sources.
The most important concession, however, is that after the committee’s final report, a menu of options could be put before the people in what Tories are calling a ‘preferendum’.
Voters would be asked to choose between the preferred Tory ideas such as reducing the number of MPs and equalising constituency sizes alongside the Lib Dems’ PR proposals.
In any such vote, the parties would be free to campaign against each other, even though they might be coalition partners in government.
In my view, Clegg and the Lib Dems would be crazy to agree to something as nebulous as that, in return for being associated with policies so unpopular they risk electoral oblivion for a generation; but perhaps they would be even crazier not to pretend to consider it. I expect we’ll know more by the end of the day.
Market chaos, whenever it kicks off – which could easily be first thing tomorrow – may play well for Cameron, by heightening a sense of urgency and emergency. In fact exploiting that might be his medium-term plan. Bodged arrangement to get through Queen’s speech and first few months; steadily souring markets, bonds under pressure, stocks in freefall, sterling down toilet; package of serious cuts announced, and Lib Dems cornered to either pass it or trigger election; beardies can’t swallow it, election called; Cameron goes to the country and we have the election campaign we should have had this time, with detailed arguments about spending cuts, but this time with a Tory incumbent depicting himself as a man of destiny, the only party leader able to face unpleasant economic truths.