THE viciousness of some of the headlines in Britain's tabloid press towards Nick Clegg yesterday showed how stunned they were at the possibility that he might after all join Labour instead of the Conservatives in a coalition. A few hours later the story had changed again and it will be interesting to see what the same papers have to say today. It is not clear how strong the possibility of a Lib-Lab coalition, helped by Gordon Brown's resignation as leader of the party, had ever been but whatever its chances it was probably sunk by the strong opposition of ministers, backbenchers and Jack Straw and David Blunkett; the latter's analysis of the difficulties inherent in such a deal on BBC Radio 4's Today programme yesterday was absolutely devastating.
Of course, the Conservatives have internal opponents also -- the party's right-wingers in Conservative Way Forward issued a statement yesterday in favour of a minority government rather than a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Mr Clegg has an awkward squad as well and he is bound by the party's rules to observe the triple-lock approval stages which I wrote about here last Sunday. Probably, though, the deal will go through and we will be amazed at the concessions Clegg has got from David Cameron. A Lib Dem minister in every department, for instance! Have they got enough MPs to go round?