It may be one of the smartest moves that Gordon Brown has ever made as head of the Labour Party and an apparent act of self-sacrifice that has injected new life into the Lib/Lab/Con coalition saga. As Brown announces his resignation questions are rife but one thing is clear: Labour suddenly seem to be a major player with a lot to offer to the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg and his party clearly agree: discussions are opening up further between the Lib Dems and Labour and speculation is mounting about just what is on offer.
This will be excellent news for Labour who were – in some respects – sitting in the wings hoping that the Lib Dem/Conservative talks would come to nothing. It’s also good news for many Liberal Democrats: many voters have been very vocal about their negative view of a Lib/Con coalition (although many do also admit that despite their dislike of the situation, they accept the need for the talks to take place) .
Brown has shown remarkable political savvy in the last few days. His initial speech confirming that of course Cameron and Clegg should talk but that he was open to approaches from many parties was remarkably dignified but also extremely well thought out. While there’s no doubt there’s been considerable pressure on Brown to resign, it is his timing, rather than the action itself, that is impeccable. After several days of speculation, discussion and uncertainty, there’s suddenly a new consideration that can’t be overlooked – and which sends everything into a tailspin.
While it seems this saga will play out for some time to come many voters (Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters at least) will be feeling a great sense of excitement at today’s events. Electoral reform clearly remains a key point in the negotiations and is a carrot Brown seems to be dangling before Clegg in the hope to push the negotiations to the next level at the very least. Perhaps the idea of teaming with a party that could have fresh energy under a new leader will be very appealing to Clegg, who is clearly chomping at the bit to tackle things in a new, energetic and exciting way.
Whatever happens, I don’t believe the Conservatives – or Labour for that matter – should count any of their chickens yet.