If you think the outcome of the election is difficult to call, just take a look at Paddy’s superb new market on the identity of the next Deputy Prime Minister.
As Sherlock Holmes said in The Red-Headed League, “it is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”
Well, pipe at the ready, let me try and solve the case a bit quicker than that.
Favourite in the betting is ‘no-one’ at 7/4, reflecting the fact that there’s no genuine need – either constitutional or practical – for the PM to appoint a deputy.
That said, we’ve had a Deputy PM in place during 27 of the last 36 years, so whether we’ve got a minority government, a majority or a coalition, there’s a decent chance the modern tradition will continue.
So my fellow detectives, who are the candidates?
Cherchez La Femme
If Labour are governing on their own, Harriet Harman will gleefully take the role denied her by Gordon Brown in 2007 at 7/1. But should she decide to stand down for any reason, Caroline Flint is a good shout at 12/1 – given Labour’s rules demand any male leader have a female deputy.
— Caroline Flint (@CarolineFlintMP) April 2, 2015
There’s been a Murrrderrr
Could the Scot Nats provide the next Deputy PM? Ed Miliband has ruled out a coalition with the SNP, but if they’re the third largest party and the country’s in a government-less limbo, it’s not impossible. But if that’s your fancy, back their Westminster chief Angus Robertson – not Alex Salmond – at 22/1. A Fatal Embrace Talking of government-less limbos, picture a Tory-Labour dead heat; stock market turmoil; and the country in crisis. The Queen calls in Dave and Ed, asking them to put aside party differences and govern together. If you can see it happening, then get on Ed Miliband as DPM at an enticing 33/1.
Ten Little Tories
If instead David Cameron is leading a minority or majority Tory government, he has one hell of a task choosing a deputy, given any decision will be seen in the context of the race to succeed him. So ignore any of the candidates in that crowded contest, and look instead at Michaels Gove or Fallon at 33/1.
The Third Man
If the Tories end up relying on unionist MPs to form a government, the DUP’s Nigel Dodds could wind up as DPM (25/1), but if it’s a tougher-negotiated deal with UKIP that gets them over the line, the smart money would be on Douglas Carswell at 66/1 given he’s a better bet than Nigel Farage to win his seat.
Those are some potential suspects, but personally, I’m not buying any of them. I don’t think either the Labour or Tories will govern on their own, they certainly won’t work together, and Labour won’t take the SNP into Downing Street.
And, as Holmes would say, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains must be the truth. Which brings us to the Liberal Democrats.
Nick Clegg is second favourite to stay in his current job at 11/2. I wouldn’t back that, even with Clegg’s own pension. He may be thick-skinned, but no leader can survive the kind of bloodbath awaiting the Lib Dems on 7 May, one for which he will be firmly blamed once the campaign’s façade of unity subsides.
— Mirror Politics (@MirrorPolitics) April 15, 2015
Nevertheless, the Lib Dems will almost certainly still retain enough seats to make themselves second fiddle in any coalition, whether Labour or Tory led, and that means they’ll keep the DPM’s office. And who will get the keys as Clegg’s replacement?
Ladies and Gentlemen, I can unmask the final suspect: look no further than Vince Cable, available with Paddy at a stonking 20/1. Elementary. Case closed. Book ‘em Danno. I’ll go and fill my pipe. You go and fill your boots.