Marf on Royal Wedding day April 2011
To govern is to choose
It is fast becoming received wisdom that the general election in May will produce an inconclusive result, and all the parties are setting out their stalls in advance, marking their red lines. The SNP say they wonâ€™t prop up the Conservatives, the Labour party are likely to rule out a deal with the SNP, the Lib Dems may insist on a full coalition or no deal at all and Nigel Farage has already said that he sees the idea of UKIP in a formal coalition with anyone as unlikely. Some of this will be pre-election posturing, but there has to be a chance that no deal can be reached which results in any government commanding a working majority in Parliament. What then?
Conveniently, the BBC produced a handy guide to this last time round, here:
If the politicians cannot agree, it is the Queen who will need to choose, in the BBCâ€™s words, â€œthe person who seems most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons to become prime minister and to form a governmentâ€.
In the circumstances where the Queen has to choose, that decision is going to be hugely controversial, whatever she decides. If she selects the leader of the party with the most seats, which in circumstances where the politicians cannot reach agreement is likely to be the Conservatives, the outrage from the left if Labour plus SNP plus Lib Dems is greater than 326 is going to be enormous.
If she selects anyone else, Conservative supporters will go berserk. Either way, support for the monarchy is likely to be seriously damaged.
If you add to the mix the fact that at least one party with a critical role, the SNP, will see great advantages in damaging the institutions of the British state, and the risk of the Queen being drawn into a constitutional crisis this year is substantial.
I hope that Her Majestyâ€™s advisers are planning carefully for a difficult year ahead.