|Who will replace Gordon Brown as next PM? Posted by Ian at 11 07 AM on Tuesday, May 11|
Analysis by Political Editor Ian Kirby
Tory MPs sitting glued to the news over their cornflakes this morning were deeply gloomy when former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown appeared to endorse a Lib Lab pact. He even claimed a coalition which is backed by just 51% of voters was "entirely legitimate".
Now the news helicopters are hovering over Whitehall again, where the Lib Dems are locked in talks with senior Labour politicians.
And Nick Clegg says the talks are entering their "critical final phase", but then he did say that yesterday.
On face value, it would appear that the Liberals are finally edging closer to the party that would appear to be their more natural bedfellows. Gordon Brown's resignation announcement and the Labour Party's offer of full electoral reform would also appear to be deal clinchers.
However, more subtle forces may be at work here. Nick Clegg cannot hope to convince his own party to do a deal with the Conservatives until he has exhausted any hope of a deal with Labour.
Look too at his oft' repeated promise that he would do what is right for the national interest and to create a stable government.
There are at least 30 Labour MPs who stand to lose their seats in a shift to proportional representation and it would only take ten of them to rebel and the "Rainbow Coalition" (also now called the Affront, or the Losers' Coalition, by Tory commentators) would lose any hope of electoral reform.
In this quickly changing game one thing appears to be clear, the government that emerges will be a full coalition rather than a Tory minority team propped up by the Lib Dems.
But if the Lib Dems do go for a deal with Labour we can expect several more days of talks as the minority parties are also painstakingly brought into the fold.
Or we could see a deal done in an hour. In truth, no-one really knows.