Monday, May 10, 2010

Sorry, but a Lib-Lab deal is a fantasy

What is this?

Mr Brown's decision to resign was designed to "unlock" a possible coalition deal between Labour and the Lib Dems, says the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson.

Clegg may well loathe Brown more than other possible Labour leaders, but does he really have the stomach for unending ‘Clegg props up another unelected PM’ headlines?

The timetable for Brown to be replaced goes up to autumn. A coalition decision is need this week. If Clegg does a deal with some caretaker leader, he’ll know that his partner risks losing the job within a few months. And very obviously Labour’s views on the coalition it would find itself in would be a key feature of the leadership election.

I guess there’s the idea that Clegg himself could be PM. That was an interesting fancy when his party was in second place in the polls a while back, but now it seems like a tasteless joke. And the Labour party would never wear it.

One reason Labour’s offer to the Lib Dems can’t in practice be as appealing as it might sound is that a good 10-20% of Labour MPs are utterly against proportional representation. With the best will in the world, any Labour leader would struggle to deliver a vote for anything more than a referendum on AV, which the Lib Dems regard as only slightly better than FPTP.

And regardless of who’s Labour leader, to have a majority in parliament, a Lib-Lab deal would need to involve at least another two minor parties. This would be hard to hold together and much likelier to collapse into a second election sooner, at which the Lib Dems would find their right-leaning supporters deserting them for the Tories.

If Clegg is, as reported, really stepping up his discussions with Labour, then either he’s out of his mind or it’s just a bluff to squeeze a better deal out of Cameron, or he’s just putting on a show for his left-leaning, Tory-hating members, so he can say that at least he looked into that option.

I hate to say it, but Cameron will be PM and he’ll get there with some sort of Lib Dem support. Very soon.

(NB My predictions are usually wrong.)


jams o donnell said...

I agree a Lab/Dem/SDLP/?/? coalition is simply a non starter.

Better Labour licks its wounds in opposition in the months before the next election

Left Outside said...

I've taken a look at the numbers and their not as grim as they could be...

It could work. Not sure if it'd be an easy sell but 15,000,000 voters did vote for either Labour or the Lib Dems, an all out press attack could back fire just as the attack on clegg did last month, and the attack on Brown re: letter did last year.

James said...

I'm convinced that Nick Robinson is making stuff up as he goes along. GB stepping down seems more calculated to give the appearance that a Lib/Lab deal could be likely and so force the Tories into conceding more than they otherwise would i.e. make the best of a bad situation.

Tom Freeman said...

I’m afraid I’m not sold on the arithmetic. Leaving SF out, you need 323 for a majority. Lab + LD + SDLP + Alliance + Green + Hermon (phew!) comes to 321. So they’d need one of the remaining parties – DUP, SNP or PC – to get any vote through.

Any vote. While one or more of these other three might support or abstain on confidence votes, you’d find it very hard to get their reliable support for an everyday programme of government. The DUP are naturally more Tory-inclined, and PC and (especially) the SNP have an incentive to make it look as though Westminster government doesn’t work.

And all of this doesn’t take into account the rebellious lefties on the Labour backbenches. Will they become more or less disciplined on being told they have to cosy up to various enemies? Remember that quite a few of them would enjoy the easier life that opposition brings. Not to mention a few on the party's right: I wouldn’t bank on Frank Field or Kate Hoey’s votes, for instance.

A ‘rainbow coalition’ might be able to hold together for a year or two, but I don’t know what it would be able to achieve.

Andrew R said...

Aside from anything else, you'd want to speak to an actuary about the life expectancy of your MPs. Constantly being one by-election away from losing your majority is no position to govern from.