Peter Hoskin

Have the Lib Dems just saved Labour from a post-election Brown leadership?

Have the Lib Dems just saved Labour from a post-election Brown leadership?
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To be honest, the leg-flashing that the Lib Dems are doing in front of the Tories and Labour just doesn't really grab my attention.  Their overtures and innuendo may, or may not, turn out to be significant in a few weeks time – but we need a general election before we can judge either way.  In the meantime, they'd be best off keeping their positioning to themselves, and getting on with an election campaign for which they actually have some fairly attractive policies.

This story, though, is worth noting down.  Apparently, in the event of a hung Parliament, Nick Clegg just couldn't bring himself to work with Gordon Brown.  Labour, perhaps (as both Clegg and Vince Cable suggested on air earlier).  Brown, no.  According to a senior Lib Dem, "Nick was scarred by the experience of trying to work with Brown last year over expenses reform."  And who could blame him?

This overlaps with one of the scariest possibilities facing Labour right now: Brown deciding to stay on in the event of a hung parliament, even if the Tores are the largest party.  Ed Balls rather unbelieveably raises the prospect in the Sunday Times today, and there have been rumblings that Brown is quite keen on the idea himself.  Just imagine: years more of Brown in British politics, regardless of whether or not he wins the election.

Sure, there's something ridiculous about the very idea.  At times, the entire Labour party seems to be geared towards getting a different leader after the election – so surely someone will give Brown the push he needs.  But, then again, Labour's would-be leaders have hardly distinguished themselves in the art of regicide over the past few years.  So what if Brown did just dig his heels in, and refused to budge?  Would anyone be able to oust him, even if they tried?

In which case, depending on how things pan out, Clegg's aversion to the PM could be just the extra motivation that Labour needs to slay the Brownite dragon, once and for all.  "I really don't want to do this, Gordon," David Miliband can trill, as he lifts the sword above his head, "but it's the best shot we've got at retaining anything like power."  And then Nick Clegg could side with the Tories anyway...