There it is. The Tories' premier weapon emblazoned across the front pages of the Guardian
and the Telegraph
: Brown could stay on as PM in a hung parliament, even if the Tories win more seats. To be fair to Brown, the headlines are misleading. It is his duty to remain in office until it is clear that David Cameron or another politician commands the confidence of the House, which may take weeks in current circumstances. Mandarins are drawing up radical contingency plans to ensure that some modicum of economic stability is maintained during that period. These measures include temporarily proroguing parliament for 18 days after the election (rather than the usual 6) and allowing the Chancellor to remain in office for that period even if he has lost his seat.
The headlines are still manna from Heaven for the Tories. These proposals will contain an already existing economic crisis, rather than avert a constitutional difficulty. That Whitehall is considering them vindicates the Tories’ economic arguments. They are an admission that Labour has wrecked the national finances. They are an admission that there is a very real threat to Britain’s credit rating. They are an admission that Labour’s current policies are undermining the strength of Sterling. They an admission that markets believe a hung parliament will not reduce the deficit fast enough. They are an admission that a hung parliament would be disastrous.