This evening at 6pm, the handful of Tories MPs who are in London met Cameron at the Commons to discuss the coalition talks. Rumours still fly but as I understand it a deal has been reached where the LibDems will vote for Tory cuts - thereby fulfilling Vince Cable's pledge to be the guarantor of stability.
"But they will want Cabinet seats," I am told by a LibDem source. "Why be tainted with cuts with nothing in return?" This would be the next level of coalition, a closer deal that has not been negotiated yet. The attraction for the Tories is twofold. Cameron feels short of talent anyway and could quite do with David Laws etc lending a hand and Clegg remains the odds-on favourite to be Home Secretary. And it would lock the Lib Dems in, allowing him to call an election at a time of his choosing. The great unknown is PR. A few Tory MPs have told me that this would be a dealbreaker - but would they support the idea of a 2012 referendum on PR with the likliehood that there would be a general election before then.
College Green has been made into a political stage by the huts set up by news channels from across the world. Just like in the aftermath of the local/Euro elections last summer, the major players mull around there looking for journalists (or tourists) to talk to. It's an open air lobby. Wandering around today were Graham Brady (campaigning for chairmanship of 1922 committee), Ming Campbell, Michael Gove and even Angus Robertson, who declared himself leader of the SNP coalition team.
MPs are communicating by email and text, anxiously waiting to hear of their leaders' negotiations. One problem with the meeting of Tory backbenchers tomorrow is that the new MPs don't have passes. Strange to think that the first thing these new MPs will do is to accept or reject a coalition deal tabled by the Cameroons. No one has any idea how the new intake will behave. Almost half of the party was elected last Thursday, and, from what I gather, they are fair-and-balanced - pictures of Thatcher on the walls and Jacques Delores on the dartboard. And I have yet to meet any MP, from any party, who does not think we will need another election in 18 months time. Any election campaign will be a short one, as all parties are bust. No one has the energy or cash for a longer campaign - and the Tory campaign actually served to erode support for Cameron. There is no such money to waste this time. But there will be no shortage of political drama in the next few weeks.