Mark Steel: A glimpse of the chaos to come

The more it goes on, the harder it is for Cameron to hide how he sees victory as his entitlement.
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The Independent Online

There's one week to go and the Tory side looks as if it's getting fraught, like a football side that can't beat a team from a lower league in the last minutes of a game.

Most obvious is their press, with articles such as "Revealed: Clegg may be Islamist Jihadist junky illegal immigrant paedophile bunny-rabbit-buggering seal-clubber who supports Argentina in World Cups and fiddled a lemon on his expenses. A psychologist warned his body language suggests that if he wins he'll sleep with your daughter and then never ring her, and at no point during the TV debates did he rule out forcing children to poison their puppies and feed them to his cobra. Doctors say voting Lib Dem could cause cancer."

The Daily Telegraph's front page told us on Saturday: "A hung parliament will cost £5,000 per person." How will this be collected, I wonder. Do the polling booths have cameras like the ones that catch speeding motorists, and a week later you'll get a photo of the moment you voted Lib Dem and a notice of 14 days to pay your £5,000 fine?

But worse than the press is this hysteria about how the financial markets will be upset if there's a hung parliament. Suddenly the party that screams how we're giving away our decision-making rights to bureaucrats in Europe, tells us we mustn't vote for who we want because this won't suit the bankers. So why don't we just ask the businessmen who they'd prefer and scrap the whole election?

To be really prudent we could ask investors who they'd like to win each constituency. Then an announcement could be made that, as the financial markets are quite uneasy about the Labour candidate in Nottingham East, everyone there has to vote Conservative, otherwise the pound will crash against the yen.

If it's still close by the weekend, Cameron will say: "Yesterday I had a meeting with 20 of Britain's top burglars. And they are adamant that the instability of a hung parliament will make them extremely jittery, leading them to rob twice as many houses as normal. And if it's REALLY close they'll defecate on your duvet."

So the other parties must retaliate. Brown should say: "My mate Nobby's a nutter, and he goes berserk under a Tory government. Even if they win a ward in a council election he gets tooled up and wanders through Sainsbury's with a bow and arrow. There's no telling what he'll do if Cameron gets in."

The more it goes on, the harder it is for Cameron to hide how he sees victory as his entitlement. If he's really terrified of a hung parliament, why doesn't he advise all his supporters to vote for one of the other parties? Because if the Tories got no votes at all there'd be hardly any chance of it happening and the problem would be avoided.

Instead his argument seems to be, "I'd like to make two points. Firstly, vote Tory or the economy will collapse, leading to instability and ruin, causing civil war and foreign invasion which a coalition won't be able to oppose because it will be all dithery and not strong enough and then we'll be flooded and have to live under the sea while the hung parliament can't make up its mind what to do. And secondly, Clegg's holding the country to ransom." And as he gets more rattled he becomes more adamant that the most important issue is we have a "strong" government, regardless of whether it bears any relation to the votes cast. Because a successful nation is one that's DECISIVE – like the Taliban, or North Korea. They'd never have got nuclear weapons if they'd been all, "Ooh, let's have a coalition and work things out democratically", would they?

Yet, in one sense, Cameron's telling the truth when he says a coalition would cause chaos. Because the three parties all accept the majority of the population should pay for the mess caused by a handful of the greedy, the same people we're being asked not to upset when we cast our vote. So a hung parliament would bring about mayhem, for the same reason a government with a majority would, because they all agree too much.

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