I can't have been the only person who felt their jaw drop to the floor last night as they watched Tom Bradby's contributions to ITV's news programmes. For days now he's been not-very-subtly trying to propagate a narrative that equates the idea of completely deprioritising electoral reform in coalition negotiations with 'responsibility' and 'putting the national interest first at a time of economic crisis'. There was apparently no trace of irresponsibility as far as Bradby was concerned in the Tories setting a whole host of preconditions for the negotiations on key topics - Europe, immigration, and Trident, just for starters. However, Bradby's narrative might just about have been defensible if all he'd been trying to do was explain for his viewers the Lib Dems' own thinking as they moved - seemingly - ever closer to a deal with the Tories that didn't involve PR. After his performance last night, however, I think we can safely conclude that wasn't what it was about. According to a frothing Bradby, the Lib Dems in merely considering an alternative coalition, are guilty of -
* "Playing with fire."
* Bringing about the "grubbiest day in politics" he can ever remember.
* Starting a "Dutch auction".
* Doing something "incomprehensible".
* Acting irresponsibly at a time of national crisis.
* Pursuing an alliance that "doesn't add up".
* Making a lot of people "pretty angry tonight". (Do any of those people live outside the Tory shires, Tom?)
* Breaching a clear promise not to make PR a precondition.
The latter point is particularly nonsensical. If PR really had now been made a precondition, given that the Conservatives have already definitively rejected it (their 'final offer' was a referendum on non-proportional AV), why are the Lib Dems still talking to them? In any case, Bradby really ought to consult a dictionary as to the meaning of the word 'precondition' - it's something that's not even up for negotiation. The only party that has gone down that path is the Conservative party, with its aforementioned 'untouchable' policy areas, which apparently its prospective coalition partners won't even be entitled to a say on.
Honest to goodness - Bradby is an affable enough guy, but after last night's blatant attempt to shape rather than report events, how on earth can he claim any credibility as the impartial political editor of a major terrestrial broadcaster?
In a post the other night I pondered the potential ramifications for the SNP if a Lib Dem-Con deal went through. One piece of good news arising from Gordon Brown's resignation announcement is that, regardless of which coalition deal (if any) is settled, the UK Labour party will almost certainly not be led by a Scot by the time of next year's Holyrood elections. The only plausible Scottish candidate, Alistair Darling, quickly ruled himself out of contention. So that's one inbuilt advantage Labour won't be enjoying a year from now.