Whether it was Peter Robinson going down to the Alliance (wtf?) or Lembit Opik been given a cheeky bum’s rush (sorry) or just the fact that the Lib Dems have actually done badly, and Labour not as bad and the Tories not as good as expected, it has been a bizarre night. What’s actually quite funny is the look of hysteria on the faces of some of the journos. I’m surprised Sky haven’t got one of those forboding Fox News jingles to underline the horror of a hung parliament. A result like this on the continent or Ireland would result in a shrug of the shoulders and politicians rolling up their sleeves to figure it out, with a government quietly cobbled together. Only in Britain is there hysteria.
What’s particularly interesting is the Cardinal Richlieu role that Peter Mandelson seems to be playing, where he (this morning) refused to rule out Brown having to go as the price of a coalition. It was so cold one could almost hear the knife go between the shoulder blades.
For my money (and I was wrong on the impact of the debates and how well the Tories would do) I think that a Tory/Lib Dem “understanding” is the most likely outcome, because a deal with Labour will need the SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the SNP as well, and that just looks too grubby. But don’t rule out the massive difficulties both Clegg and Cameron will have selling any sort of deal to their parties. In short, another election in the next 18 months is not impossible.