Hung parliament prospect looms over Whitehall

By Alex Stevenson

The Liberal Democrats will meet with senior civil servants to discuss the possibility of a hung parliament before the next general election, a report claims.

The Guardian newspaper cites a senior Whitehall official revealing the civil service will be “dusting down the tomes” to assess the mechanics of the centrist Lib Dems’ manifesto’s incorporation with that of either Labour or the Conservatives.
Current polls suggest the Tories would win the most seats in the Commons but would fail to win an outright majority – resulting in a hung parliament.

While Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has not publicly acknowledged any desire to enter into a coalition- a tactic observers note prevents his party from choosing one of the two main parties over the other – it is widely believed he may be persuaded to enter government.

This may be conditional on electoral reform, however. The Lib Dems are the main losers from Britain’s first-past-the-post system and would prefer a form of proportional representation.

A senior Whitehall figure told the Guardian the No 10 permanent secretary, cabinet secretary and the Queen’s private secretary would “make sure they’ve all got the same understanding of what happens”.

Another said: “You take the Liberal manifesto seriously not because you think it is going to be the government’s programme.

“But there could be a hung parliament and deals around constitutional change or proportional representation [electoral reform].”