Decades may pass without a coalition, but when the first turns up, you’d better be prepared for another. Or so says a band of the usual Lab-Lib coalitionary suspects. And if there is another hung parliament in 2015, there might be another Cameron Clegg coalition. So we should all start campaigning now for a “progressive” Lab-Lib coalition now, just in case:
David Cameron and Nick Clegg have just set out their joint priorities for what remains of the current coalition’s term of office. But progressive politics will be the loser if a renewal of that arrangement comes to be seen as the natural outcome in the event of another hung parliament. An alternative coalition joining Labour and the Liberal Democrats also needs to be on the table for a proper debate about Britain’s future to take place.
In a remarkable piece of chop logic, these PR enthusiasts even argue that sticking with first-past-the-post has made coaltions more likely: “as our electoral system creates more safe seats, and therefore reduces the potential for big swings between the two largest parties, the likelihood of coalition politics grows.”
Adopting this stance would be catastrophic, especially pushing it when Labour is increasingly expected to form a majority government at the next election – Ladbrookes and Paddy Hill are currently offering 7/4 against a hung parliament. The biggest reason is that we have won over the support of so many Lib Dems who mistakenly thought the Lib Dems were more progressive than Labour last time — according to this weekend’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times, over two-thirds of the Labour lead comprises voters who voted Lib Dem in 2010.
I don’t object to talking to people in other parties. I am happy to work with people from other parties in joint campaigns where there is joint agreement and cooperation can advance the cause – whether it is against cimate change or against a hospital closure. And I wouldn’t rule out a coalition in local or national government in the absence of an overall majority for Labour. However, campaigning for a Lab-Lib coalition now would have the following damaging effects:
- causing damaging and unnecessary internal division within Labour about working with the Lib Dems, which would damage Labour electorally;
- reducing the chances of voting Labour of anyone who strongly opposes what the Lib Dems and Tories are doing in government;
- making it harder to win over disenchanted former Lib Dems in Lab/Lib Dem contests – why switch to Labour if the Lib Dems stay in government anyway?
- making it more likely that disenchanted former Lib Dems will vote Green, SNP or Plaid Cymru;
- increasing the flow of pro-Coalition 2010 Lib Dem voters to the Tories, helping the Tories to win more Tory/Lib Dem contests.
It makes no sense. Don’t fall for it.