There is nothing Nick Clegg can do over the next couple of days that will not destroy him. Our political system, as shown by last week’s general election, has descended into the politics of hate. People no longer vote with their hopes, they vote with their fears. Nick Clegg has to now either prop up a Tory government, or a Labour one. Both sides command an awful lot of hate in the minds of the electorate, who will not forgive Clegg for what he has to do.
Not propping up another party (but allowing the Tories to run as a weak minority government) is unlikely and would set the Lib Dems back years in their campaign for electoral reform. Proponents of first-past-the-post would claim this proves that Britain is not ready for coalition governments and we need our current system to (more times than not) deliver decisive victories. Such a view would destroy the Lib Dems.
So Clegg must prove that coalitions can work. However, an alliance with the Tories would mean no PR and hatred from the anti-tory sections of their own party. Support in Lib-Lab marginals would disappear and they would be set back decades. The Conservatives, eager to shake the Lib Dems loose, would wait until the opportune moment and declare an election, increasing their majority and ending any concessions they might have given the Liberals.
The final option is to form a coalition with Labour and various other smaller parties. Whilst this would be legitimate in British constitutional sense, the right wing media would explode in outrage. The Lib Dems would be accused of acting in their own interest and would never get any good press again. Labour hating supporters in Lib-Con marginals would dwindle, setting the Liberals back decades. Finally, once Labour have a different leader without the baggage, Labour would call another election to rid themselves of their liberal obligations.
Each option ends up with everyone hating Clegg. There is nothing he can do that won’t damage the Liberals in some way. In 2010, with the choice of Clegg, the public were given their first real chance of putting honesty and hope back into British politics. Their repayment is to destroy him.