Now it seems that this is not so much the case. Part of this is the electoral system - if we had a true Proportional Representation (PR) system the Lib Dems would have 149 seats, not 57. The Tories would have 233 seats, not 306 and Labour would have 188 seats, not 258 (all approx figures).
Clegg and the rest of his team of merry politicians are now in the positionof being able to pick and chose who they want to side with. And surprise surprise, they are actually consulting their party members about the way forward - democracy in action, who'da thunk it! Whoever they form a coalition with - and I'm guessing Labour are now in with a chance as Brown has just announced he is stepping down - the Liberal Democrats will finally get some effectvie power.
If they form a coalition with the Tories, (which with the Tories getting the biggest percentage of the vote at 36.1%, I can undertand why Clegg feels morally bound to start discussions with them first, even if I loathe the idea of the Conservatives having power again), then hopefully the Lib Dems will block the more extreme Tory measures and policies. This can only be a good thing.
I wonder what a coalition would mean in terms of the parties following through on their manifetso policies? Does anyone know? How do we (theoretically) hold them accountable when they don't have the majority with which to pass the laws?
Whoever the Lib Dems work with they have got to push through a change in voting system. What remains to be seen is how long this takes and what form. Referendums are ridiculous because you can skew the results according to the type of question you ask. For example, would you prefer Alternative Vote (AV) or First Past The Post (FPTP)?
Actually I want PR, but that's not an option and if I really don't want AV I may vote for FPTP, but that doesn't mean I actually want FPTP. It means I didn't get a decent choice at the ballot.*
Of course, we are likely to have extensive government enquiries first, before we see any proposed referenda. This could take years.
I suspect that if Clegg forms a coalition with the Tories his party members will view him as selling out. I agree. But what I think is most important is to get some form of stable government settled, that represents over 50% of the votes cast at the election. Even if 36% of that is represented by the Tories. Just because I hate what my fellow citizens have voted for doesn't mean I can declare the government invalid.
One problem the government will face is that over the next few years the recession and associated issues are probably going to get worse before they get better. This could mean that whoever is in charge sees their popularity plummeting and are therefore screwed over for the next ten years or so.
*All theoretical. In all liklihood, given this choice, I'd vote AV, but that doesn't mean I really want it.