Could someone please be sensible about a Lib Lab coalition?

by Ian Stewart

Thank you Andrew Rawnsley. No, really – this was exactly the right time to bring up the possibility of Nick Clegg clinging to office by whatever means necessary after 2015.

Of course, Andrew was simply doing what he is paid for – writing speculative fiction that tantalises Observer readers every Sunday. After all, with Len Mcluskey giving one of the most important speeches from any trade union leader in ages, it was obviously a slow week in politics. Oh, and Cameron running away (again) on Europe, those nasty cuts to all those skiving strivers in the NHS, the armed forces; the firefighters’ warning of a looming crisis in our emergency services, yes, nothing to worry the world of high politics.

Now predictably the reaction to Rawnsleys’ article on Sunday has fallen into two camps – those who are trenchantly against any co-operation, and those who, for all sorts of reasons, favour some kind of Lib-Lab alliance. I can find no coherent reason to join the latter camp, yet I also reject the former.

The situation as I understand it is this: Ed and Nick are no longer throwing dung at each other. Outside of Westminster, the Lib Dems still covet the ambition to replace Labour as the main contender to the Tories, and, in differing areas, act accordingly. Most true blue Tories still detest the orange bookers, and blame government failure on them, rather than on Osborne’s economic incompetence.

Oh, and the main point – the next general election is in 2015, and as this is not North Korea, we do not yet know the result. This makes all speculation null and void. Certainly, we need to be prepared for the possibility of another hung parliament, and to keep our options open to deny any chance of a Tory majority government if we can.

Yes, that may mean some form of coalition of those willing to halt austerity. That could include Plaid, Greens, and yes, maybe even Liberal Democrats, depending upon who leads them at the time – hell – even the SNP if necessary (although I doubt they would do it).

Labour could even win a majority, after all the polls at this early point suggest an increased vote. So it would be much more sensible to waste but little time on second guessing the future, and spend more time building a party and movement that can effectively oppose this austerity, and win the election in 2015.

Ian Stewart is a Labour party member and blogs at

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7 Responses to “Could someone please be sensible about a Lib Lab coalition?”

  1. Ex-Labour says:

    I live near Clegg’s constinuency and have friends that do live there. Based on the strength of feeling regarding Cleggs volte face on just about every policy the LD’s have come up with, I have money on him not getting elected back into parliament in 2015. His constituency has a massive student population and they are all cheering his about turn on tuition fees…….err ….not !

    Do jurnos like Rawnsley do any research ?

  2. There is no reason for any Lib Dem to be elected anywhere in 2015. Or, after the defeat of independence the previous year, for any Scottish Nationalist to be elected. Or for more than about 80 Conservatives.

    Where Labour is in third place or below, and perhaps also where it is in a sufficiently distant second place, then it should dispense with any requirement that its prospective nominees be party members (although they would of course have to join if they were selected), provided that they had been registered voters within the constituency’s then boundaries for at least 15 years, and provided that they were recommended to the Constituency Labour Party by the public signatures of at least five per cent of the voters. If affordable, the Constituency Labour Party General Committee’s shortlist of two such applicants should be submitted to an independent, binding ballot of the entire constituency electorate.

    Labour should also undertake to meet maximum election expenditure in every constituency. The unions are loaded, but not all of them are, or need necessarily become, affiliated to the Labour Party. The RMT and the FBU both no longer are (the RMT’s cheque is returned uncashed every year), but they both retain membership of the Labour Representation Committee chaired by John McDonnell, and that Committee is constitutionally committed to the election of a Labour Government. 50 per cent of Labour Party members are also members of the technically unaffiliated teachers’ unions, the non-fan clubs of Michael Gove. There is the Unison General Political Fund. And so on. Immense possibilities, if one knows where and how to look.

  3. swatantra says:

    Has David Lindsy lost it … completely. Or is he in gagaland?
    There will always be a rump of 20+ Lib Dem MPs in a Parliament, whatever happens on 8% of the popular vote; many will be sent back purely on grounds of familiarity and being a good constituency member.
    I am opposed to anyone standing as a LP candidate unless they have done 3 years in the Party and proved their worth in campaignng. We don’t want to take just anyone off the street, or turncoats or flybynights.
    I would also like to see the return of a few more ‘Labour and Union’ MPs into the next Parliament, exactly on that ticket, ‘Labour and Unions’. But its up to the Unions to push that themselves. As well as more ‘Labour and Coop’ MPs that goes without saying, so everyone knows where they are.

  4. swatantra does not understand how First Past The Post works.

  5. uglyfatbloke says:

    I think Swatantra understands FPTP perfectly well, though I think the glib-dumbs will be lucky to retain any more than 20 seats.
    As for the gnats and the referendum….A victory for the ‘No’ campaign is not as certain as people think; according to the polls the ‘Yes’ support is at a low ebb, but there are serious doubts about the validity of sampling methodology. Where I live most people vote Glib-Dumb but will vote ‘Yes’ in the referendum.
    Of course a lot of people vote gnat for reasons other than independence and it is very doubtful that practice of voting gnat for Holyrood and Labour (or whatever) for Westminster can be relied on in the future. What happens, for example, if the traditional BBC support for the Union fades away? If the documentary ‘Domhair was to be screened in English rather than in Gaelic there would be some very tricky questions to be answered.
    Also, bearing in mind that most people in Scotland want something very close to FFA, the gnats will continue to have a strong hand. Additionally if the Tories make a recovery and it looks like Cameron will get a second term, the traditional approach of asking people to vote Labour to keep the Tories out may not be very effective. if the gnats are to be beaten Labour willh ave to do something much better than just promise ‘something better if you vote ‘No’….one bitten twice shy and all that.
    What happens if the gnats do as well at the next GE as they did in the Holyrood elections? I seem to recall that Labour were about 15 points ahead just a few weeks before the election and we had the whole thing sewn up. Suppose the gnats get anywhere in the region of 40% of the popular vote? In that case FPTP would not only work in their favour, it would actively work against Labour. In the same vein, the glib-dumbs are unlikely to keep more than two Scottish seats – possibly three if Kennedy is selected over Alexander – and all save one of the remainder are likely to go to the gnats (Labour will get the other one and will also pick up ‘Fluffy’ Mundell’s seat). it would not be at all surprising if the gnats end up with more MPs than the Glib-dumbs, which would be amusing in it;s own way – in fact just recently the Glibs were even trailing behind the gnats in the north of England, let alone Scotland.
    On the plus side, in the event of a failing to get a commons majority, it would be much easier, and more natural, to get the gnats to support Ed than it was for Cameron to get Clegg onside, however there would be a price and given that the gnats got nothing out of keeping Labour in office after the Lib-Lab pact of the 1970s, the price would actually have to be paid. The gnats of today are not so naive about parliamentary politicking as their predecessors of 40 years ago.
    The whole problem could be avoided by adopting FFA right now and thereby wounding the gnats fatally. If Scotland were to raise what Scotland spends that would be perfectly acceptable in England, but what passes for leadership in Scotland (the talent is there, it’s just not allowed to come to the top of the pile) would go ballistic.

  6. Peter Gartshore says:

    As a former member of the Labour Party when it had a vestige of a social soul I would be disappointed if the Lib Dems were to form a coalition with Labour. I regard Labour as being on the right of the polical spectrum(certainly to the right of the Tories on most issues) If you want a catalogue of examples i can easily provide. The greatest attrocity carried out in recent political history was the holocaust of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis supported by the Labour Government. This surely is reason enough not to ever vote for the Labour Party again. And for those who criticise for their volte face on tuition fees-at least this does not cause mass destruction of human beings.

  7. Ian Stewart says:

    @ Peter: Yes, there are a lot of former Labour supporters like yourself who now vote Lib Dem. Please do not forget that the Tories also backed the Iraq war, and that it was a Liberal Government that got us into The Great War, partially on the basis that to not join the fighting would let the Tories in.
    Labour is certainly not perfect, but to stay with “progressives” like that is surely a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face…

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