It’s the election that has had everyone stumped: the pundits, the pollsters, the press – and yesterday, even the politicians were left gobsmacked.
As the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, took to the lectern outside Number 10, he managed to trump the drama factor in a political saga that has few precedents and has riveted London – and the UK - for days.
Suddenly, the political landscape has been transformed and within hours, the Conservatives, tantalizingly close to Number 10, have been thrown into a brazen auction as Labour unleashed its audacious – and some would argue outrageous – bid for a progressive Labour led coalition.
Within an hour of Mr Brown’s pledge to stand down in the British autumn – in time for the September Labour conference – and promised the Liberal Democrats immediate electoral reform, the Conservatives were forced into a frenzied counter offer, including a referendum on an AV voting system and Cabinet posts for Nick Clegg’s party.
For those watching the unexpected turn into the unbelievable, it was the brazen nature of the offers – a kind of political eBay from both sides – that really struck home.
The Tories’ sudden, much hastened offer, described as out of the ideological question just hours before, was apparently copped by a shell shocked Conservative backbench who could see their dreams of sitting on the Government benches recede before their eyes.
Indeed it was clear too from the body language of Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, that neither David Cameron nor any of the senior Conservative negotiating team had any idea that the clandestine meetings held between Brown and Clegg were not only serious but potentially game changing.
Nick Clegg has now bunkered down with his team and MPs at Westminster to really nut out if a Labour coalition – which would also need the support of nationalist MPs from Wales, Ireland and Scotland – is viable in anything more than the short term. The LibDems are only too aware that they risk public opprobrium among those who believe that the Tories’ won the most votes and seats - and therefore have a greater mandate for power.
The Liberal Democrats’ in fact lost seats and failed to live up to the high expectations sparked by Clegg’s eloquent and telegenic debate debut.
But the desire for electoral change – and the fact that despite everything Labour is the most familiar bedfellow – has clearly beckoned. Clegg has played both hands and with street cunning has catapaulted himself back into the role of kingmaker.
Now, the strangest of scenarios – one I described earlier this week – is a possibility: Britain could have a Prime Minister who didn’t fight the election nor front the lecterns of the now infamous TV debates.
Whether Clegg plumps for Labour’s serenade or the Tories’ flowers remains to be seen. Indications here in London tonight are that a decision won’t be announced until tomorrow.
But for those who insist still that another unelected Prime Minister and a progressive alliance is not possible – think again.
As a senior Lib Dem said with aplomb: "My reply to that is Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Callaghan and Major. This has happened before and will happen again."