I can't, for the life of me, understand our premature obsession with 'deals' and 'red lines' in the run-up to this year's General Election. It's like we all got bitten by the coalition government bug five years ago, and now we want to skip the actual business of campaigning and voting altogether so we can get straight down to the good stuff – the coalition negotiations.
The trouble is, it's very difficult to negotiate 'blind' like this. Which is why I think it so incredibly foolish for party leaders to be ruling out dealing with certain other parties already – and so irresponsible of journalists and others to try and hustle them into doing so.
You (as the leader of a political party) might well say you would never deal with party x in the event of a hung parliament – and you might very well mean it, too – but it's all a little meaningless when you don't know how many seats they're going to have after the vote, or even how many seats you're going to have! If a deal with party x then becomes your best (or only!) option, you're going to regret that you backed yourself into a corner during the campaign in order to win a cheap round of applause during a television appearance.
In 'A Scandal in Bohemia', the inimitable Sherlock Holmes famously says:
It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.Increasingly, it seems that this is exactly what our political leaders are doing – laying the groundwork for coalition talks before they have any facts to deal with. And that, to me, seems rather daft.