Speculation is at fever pitch as the Evening Standard splashes that Gordon Brown has already resigned as prime minister as talks towards a Lib-Lab pact fail.
That Lib-Lab pact, relying on the SDLP, SNP and Plaid Cymru, would have been a nightmare as every backbench rebellion was guaranteed success. The best outcome is a minority Tory government propped up for a couple of months with supply and confidence from the Lib Dems… and there’s every reason to think that will happen thanks, in part, to the Lib Dems’ triple lock, which has been all but ignored by journalists standing around in Westminster streets when they’d be better off reading up on the parties’ constitutions and procedures.
A Lib-Con pact may well be agreed, but it will need three-quarters of Lib Dem MPs and three-quarters of their federal executive to sign it off. That will not be easy. If Clegg has a majority of less than three-quarters he can go to a special conference — the second lock — but that will take time and he needs a two-thirds majority. The third lock, in the event that the special conference goes with Clegg, but by less than two-thirds, is a membership ballot.
Nevertheless, don’t be surprised if the Lib Dems go down that route. Given the time constraints, they would have to provide supply and confidence to the Tories until all this party democracy stuff had worked its way out. Cameron would be a lame duck prime minster. He’d get the title and be allowed to appoint ministers, but the Lib Dems would stop him passing any legislation they didn’t like.
In parallel, Labour would be regrouping around a new leader pushing for a no confidence vote against a shambolic administration, drowning in bad blood.