Gordon Brown continues to cling desperately to power, in a shameless display of contempt for public opinion, but his days as prime minister are surely numbered. A poll on Sunday showed 68 percent of Britons opposed to Brown remaining in office, and calling on him to resign. The PM held desperate talks over the weekend with Nick Clegg in the vain hope of forming a coalition, but so far the Liberal leader has failed to respond to his advances, preferring to look for a deal with Conservative party leader David Cameron. There is longstanding bad blood between the two politicians, and even as recently as this Friday, Brown was reported to have ranted over the phone in anger at his Liberal counterpart.
There remains a slim possibility that the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats will form a coalition of their own, but only if Brown humiliatingly gives way to one of his ministers, such as Foreign Secretary David Miliband or Deputy Leader Harriet Harman. But this option runs the risk of facing intense public and media opposition, with no guarantees of passing legislation, and it is highly unlikely to survive more than a few months. I doubt the Liberals will buy into such an arrangement; it could prove disastrous for them to be associated with a deeply unpopular government, ahead of an almost certain second general election later in the year if there is a fragile Lib-Lab administration.
The most likely scenario this week is a deal between the Conservatives and the Liberals to enter into some kind of formal or informal power-sharing arrangement, or the establishment of a Conservative minority government, which will seek deals with other parties on an issue-by-issue basis. There is already intense opposition on the right of the Tory party to a formal coalition with Clegg, and mounting speculation in London that Cameron may seek a more informal arrangement with the Liberal Democrats over the economy specifically, in an effort to address the financial crisis.
Whatever the outcome of the talks between the Cameron and Clegg camps over the next couple of days, two things are highly likely by the end of the week: Gordon Brown will be out of power and working on his memoirs, and David Cameron will be in Downing Street. It will be an ignominious end to an inglorious prime minister who has overseen the biggest economic downturn in Britain in a generation. He leaves behind not only a gravely weakened economy, but a divided and fearful nation in urgent need of revival and regeneration. As the 1997 election victory theme song boasted, “Things can only get better,” but this time only a conservative government will be able to ensure it does.
– Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.