By Ray Fleming

FACING the likelihood of a hung parliament following Britain's general election last May, the civil service Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Gus O'Donnell, set about writing various scenarios that might arise in order to be able to give the best advice possible to whichever party leaders were involved in coalition or minority government negotiations. It was later suggested that the emphasis he placed on the need to reach a fast solution in order to avoid a run on the pound risked putting him in a political situation when offering advice. The Lib-Con coalition was certainly formed with surprising speed.

There was probably a more important factor in Sir Gus's mind -- the need to avoid a situation in which the Queen had to make what might seem like a political judgement herself when calling on the chosen leader to form a government. If this danger existed, it was avoided but by a strange chance the Queen's representative in Australia, the Governor-General Quentin Bryce, is at risk of being at the centre of just such a political situation following last week's election there which left the Labor and Liberal parties almost inseparable. If Ms Bryce has to choose which party should be invited to form a government, will it matter that her daughter recently married a leading Labor politician? Reports suggest that the Governor-General's dilemma is being referred to London. Sir Gus to the rescue again?

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