Gordon Brown has done two smart things today. The first was to make public what his offer to the Lib Dems was, meaning that every Lib Dem MP knew what it was before their party meeting tomorrow morning. This increases the pressure on the leadership not to do a deal with the Conservatives that does not include the guarantee of a referendum on PR. The second was to say that he’ll give Cameron and Clegg as long as they want to try and strike a deal. The clever things about this is that it puts the onus on Cameron and Clegg to come out and say that they’ve reached a deal, something that will be tricky for Clegg to do given the internal dynamics of his party. Also, all the time that Cameron and Clegg are trying to find common ground, Brown is in Downing Street. This is the kind of politics that Brown is good at.
One the Tory side, I’m picking up a surprisingly large amount of support for what Cameron is doing. There is a recognition that spans the party that it would be stupid to drive the Lib Dems into Brown’s arms. But PR remains an absolute deal-breaker. There’s also a problem that senior backbenchers do not feel that they are being consulted about what is going on. Indeed, Cameron would be well advised to summon a meeting of the parliamentary party.