Friday, 1 May 2015

Future coalitions

So Ed Miliband has reiterated his determination not to enter a coalition after the general election. It seems that Labour has not shaken off its race memory of the Ramsay MacDonald-led National Government of the 1930s. The trauma of the National Government clearly coloured the thinking of Jim Callaghan in 1978 when he indicated that he would rather risk a later Tory government than call an early election which would probably have resulted in sharing power with Liberals. (Callaghan presumably calculated that an anti-union, economically liberal party led by a woman would prove massively unpopular. He was not to know that Thatcherism would last for nineteen years.) The 1978 Labour Party at least had the burden of people who remembered the 1930s. The 21st century Labour Party with its supposedly internationalist outlook has no such excuse, when there are ample examples of stable coalitions on the continent, including one led by Lord Kinnock's daughter-in-law in Denmark. Of course, Labour's 2015 campaign is advised by a citizen of the United States, which has no recent history of power-sharing at the national level.

From the point of view of the majority of LibDem activists, who have more in sympathy with social democrats on the Labour side than with Conservatives, this is a pity. The arithmetic was not right in 2010, but it might be more favourable in May this year. Miliband's mulishness feeds the propaganda machines not only of the Liberal Democrats but even more so of the nationalist parties.

As to a possible continuation of a Conservative/LibDem coalition, Lord Greaves has an authoritative piece on Liberal Democrat Voice. I agree with him and Bill le Breton in "arguing the case for a much more open, democratic and liberal set-up involving a minority Government that works with Parliament instead of trying to dominate it in a majoritarian manner".

In fact, it is unlikely that either the leader of the Conservatives (whoever he or she may be after the election) or Ed Miliband is likely to pick up the phone to Nick Clegg if Liberal Democrats are much reduced in representation. Conversely, it would be fatal to the Liberal Democrat party if Nick took the initiative and was therefore perceived to be, without principle, hawking his favours round the streets of Westminster.

All bets are off, though, if Liberal Democrats maintain or even increase their numbers in the House of Commons and thus achieve endorsement of the "brain and heart" electoral pitch. This is not impossible. It is as likely, in my opinion, as a SNP "tartan-wash" north of the border.

1 comment:

Frank Little said...

It seems from an interview on tonight's HTV Wales News, I misunderstood Ed Miliband. It's only the nationalists he would rule out a coalition or agreement with. Beyond that, he did not want to discuss. So it would be possible for there to be a Miliband-led Labour coalition with LibDems ... or Conservatives, or UKIP, or ?