Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Monday, 9 March 2009

Lib Dems 'exploring game theory'

Vince Cable

The Lib Dems will negotiate with rivals if there is a hung parliament at the next election using methods adopted by business and the CIA, it is reported.

"Game theory" is a branch of economic thought which creates strategies based on other people's predicted behaviour.

The Financial Times said a lack of a parliamentary majority for Labour or the Tories could cause a "bidding war" of policy offers for Lib Dem support.

But the Lib Dems refused to comment on whether game theory would be used.

Vince Cable, the party's Treasury spokesman and deputy leader, helped to develop an "auction theory" - dealing with negotiating strategy amid various offers - when he worked as Shell's chief economist in the 1990s.

'Formidable'

This built on the "scenario planning" method - aimed at overcoming hard-to-envisage situations such as wars and sudden rises in inflation - which the company pioneered in the 1970s.

The FT says Mr Cable is looking at how such a technique could be used in the event of a hung parliament at the next election, which has to be held by June 2010.

Nick Robinson
Now, what price Lib Dem support for a Cameron minority government?

It adds that insiders say he, party leader Nick Clegg and home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne could form a "formidable" negotiating team.

But a Lib Dem spokesman told the BBC: "We have no comment. Seeing this story in the paper is the first we have heard of it."

On Sunday Mr Clegg told the party's spring conference in Harrogate that the economic crisis "opens the door to a genuinely new way of doing things".

He added: "A never-ending cycle of red-blue, blue-red government has got us into this mess - it is never going to get us out. Try something new."

BBC political editor Nick Robinson said Mr Clegg also let it be known during the conference that he had turned down an invitation to dine at Conservative leader David Cameron's home.

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