Conservative Diary

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Labour has lost the authority to govern

ConservativeHomeEditorial There are three key points the morning after the night after election day - as we move towards the final counts.

1. Labour has lost the authority to govern - not just Brown, that is, but his Party as a whole.  It's set to lose roughly 100 seats - and its vote share has slumped to its lowest levels since the days of Michael Foot. Brown has shrunk the mighty New Labour coalition to a shrivelled rump, trapped in its northern and urban heartlands. Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, is out.  So's Vera Baird, the Attorney General.  So are a swathe of middle-ranking Ministers.  Mandelson's plot to do a PR deal with the Liberal Democrats - replacing Brown with Miliband in the process if necessary - is a desperate ploy to cling to power.

2. The Liberal Democrats have no mandate to prop Labour up.  Clegg himself has admitted that the results were "disappointing" for his party.  This is code for "humiliating".  As we write, the Lib Dems have suffered a net loss of seats.  Romsey, Cornwall South-East, Truro and Falmouth, Camborne and Redruth, Harrogate and Knaresborough - all have turned blue.  The frenzy of excitement ignited by Clegg's performance in the first TV election debate is, this morning, a distant and ironic memory.  Furthermore, the Lib Dem leader said during the campaign that the Party with most votes and seats should get the first chance to form a government.

3. David Cameron has the legitimacy to go it alone.  For Conservatives, there's no hiding disappointment that we're not over the winning line.  Nonetheless, the Party's made impressive if erratic gains, driving deep into Labour and Lib Dem territory.  David Cameron is fairly and squarely first both in seats and votes.  He's therefore won the right to demand that Clegg keeps his word.  If Clegg doesn't, Cameron's in a position to say that he's ready to go it alone; and to ask whether, with the pound at risk of sliding and the Greek contagion at risk of spreading, the Lib Dems will dare vote him down - and plunge Britain into the chaos of second election.

Paul Goodman and Jonathan Isaby


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