Grant Woodward: Is this really still the least worst option for Britain?

David Cameron was all smiles when going into coalition with Nick Clegg.
David Cameron was all smiles when going into coalition with Nick Clegg.
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hands up then. Who actually thought the love affair would last?

The mood music in the Downing Street Rose Garden five years ago may have been sweet enough, but the coalition between the Tories and Lib Dems looked rocky from the start.

There wasn’t a gap between the parties’ respective aspirations, more a yawning chasm.

The Lib Dems wanted electoral reform in the shape of proportional representation.

David Cameron promised them a referendum – then fronted the ‘No’ campaign himself.

Unlikely bedfellows at the best of times, the two parties came together at the very worst of times to stop HMS Britain going down like the Titanic.

Or at least that’s what they’ll be telling us between now and election day – with each claiming the credit.

All the polls say Nick Clegg will end up carrying the can for a string of broken promises on everything from voting reform to tuition fees.

It’s true that the guy’s done more U-turns than a driving instructor.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that history will judge him more kindly.

It’s easy for political ideals to get smashed on the rocks of pragmatism and the Lib Dem leader is paying the price for accepting that sometimes his party’s key policies had to play second fiddle to digging the country out of an economic hole.

But what’s worrying is that people keep telling me they think another Tory-Lib Dem coalition might be the best option post May 7.

‘Best’ might be stretching it a bit. ‘Least worst’ is probably closer to the mark.

The feeling is that the Tories’ determination to scale back the state and slash spending can be tempered by a dash of Lib Dem compassion. But is that really the best we can hope for?

It’s true, to a degree, that things are looking a bit brighter financially.

Five years ago, the infamous note from outgoing Treasury Secretary Liam Byrne said that there was no money left.

Now, compared to the rest of Europe, we’re not doing all that badly.
 But is everyone really sharing in this much-vaunted recovery?

Business leaders may have printed a love letter to the Tories’ stewardship of the economy in a national newspaper this week, but is that simply because they fear Labour would get rid of zero-hour contracts and introduce a proper living wage?

Labour’s trouble is that, like the Conservatives, their chances of getting enough share of the vote to form a majority Government are slim.

So, despite what Ed Miliband says, they’re likely to have to rely on support from the Scottish Nationalists to prop them up.

It would mean that a country with a population of five million which objected to being governed by a nation of 50 million would now be expecting to call the shots.

That can’t be right, can it?

So what are the other options? A Tory pact with Ukip? Not much chance of that, and besides, Nigel Farage can probably only count on winning three seats.

As far as the Lib Dems go, it’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to play the role of kingmaker again because the 58 seats they won last time look set to be more than halved.

The upshot is there’s a good chance we’ll all wake up on May 8 none the wiser as to who’s actually in charge.

The country will be in a state of limbo because so fragmented is the voting likely to be that that not even two parties getting together will form a strong Government.

Unless Labour and Tories jump into bed together of course – which is about as likely as BBC boss Tony Hall getting a Christmas card from Jeremy Clarkson.

The reality is that we’re about to have the weakest, most unstable government for a long, long time.

In years to come we might look back and think that Con-Dem coalition wasn’t so bad after all. Gulp.

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