By Ray Fleming

Why is David Cameron behaving as if he won the election? He did not win. If he had done so he would not be offering Nick Clegg compromise tit-bits to boost his House of Commons seats to a majority. This is not to say that the Conservatives did not get the most votes and seats and are not entitled to make what they can of that, but they did not win and will not have done so until Mr Cameron gets the keys of No 10 Downing Street in his hands. It is unlikely that the furniture removal van will be needed in Downing Street this weekend.

Even if Mr Clegg is attracted by the Conservative offer he cannot accept it himself. Apart from the necessary consultation with his close colleagues and advisors he will also need to engage with the Liberal Democrats' “triple-lock” system which requires approval by three-quarters of MPs and the party's federal executive for “any substantial proposal which could affect the party's independence of political action”. In the event of disagreement a full conference of party members has to be called. This safeguard was adopted in 1998 when party members became concerned at Paddy Ashdown's coalition talks with Tony Blair. Perhaps the procedure can be streamlined in present circumstances but it cannot be ignored and would, of course, have to be followed in any agreement with Labour. The key words are “independence of political action”. How do you ensure that if you are a member of another party's governing coalition?