Steve Richards on a hung parliament

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I think that we need to end the old Punch and Judy civil war of Roundheads and Cavaliers

"I think that we need to end the old Punch and Judy civil war of Roundheads and Cavaliers"

A good article in the Independent (I can’t remember the last time I said or wrote that phrase) by Steve Richards on the prospects for the Tories if there should be a hung parliament.

Steve’s point seems to hinge on three premises:

  • Despite the polls, Labour are likely to have more seats than the Tories after the election.
  • Lib Dem MPs are keener for a coalition with Labour than with the Tories.
  • The Lib Dem membership, which (apparently) needs to be consulted before a coalition as part of their “triple lock” system of approval from leadership, parliamentary party and membership, won’t go with the Tories.

It’s an interesting analysis, but flawed.

First, as the unfortunately named Paintbrush Collective Comrade ElectionsProduceErections has speculated already, the factors affecting the Lib Dems’ dominant strategy in a hung parliament amount to more than just the number of seats run: national vote share and the economic outlook will be important too.

EPE suggests that if Labour win a plurality of seats in an economically benign scenario, the Lib Dems should support the Tories, and that if the outlook isn’t so good, their best policy is equidistance.

Only if Labour wins both the national vote share and the battle for a plurality in the Commons should the Lib Dems (in this analysis) enter a Labour-led coalition; otherwise, they stand to lose more than they can gain.

Thee second point about Lib Dem MPs – well, that’s just tittle-tattle, as far as I can make out. Some parts of the parliamentary party probably would favour Labour, but many won’t: as far as I can make out (and this is purely my own reckoning), MPs who have entered parliament in or after 1997 or who are from the old SDP-wing of the Lib Dems (or both) are probably less likely to be predisposed to favour a Labour-led coalition.

Winning (for the Tories) here

Winning (for the Tories) here

As for the third point about the Lib Dem membership, I think this assumes too much about the nature of Lib Dem members and activists. Gone are the days when the bearded muesli-knitters ruled supreme. They’re still there, but they’ve been joined by a whole host of different people: the products of every non-Tory anti-government knee-jerk in the last 12 years.

For what it’s worth on the last point, Lib Dem councillors don’t appear to be shy of coalescing with the Tories. By my count at the Local Election database site, There are 19 councils in England where the Lib Dems are in coalition with the Tories, against five where they’re in coalition with Labour (Kirklees, Wirral, Broxtowe, Salisbury and Tendring, if you’re into your local government politics). In Scotland, they’re in 2 with the SNP (Edinburgh and Fife) against one (Midlothian) with Labour; in Wales, it’s at least 2 with Plaid, 1 (Newport) with the Tories, and any number of Flintshire-style rainbow coalitions against Labour.

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4 Responses to “Steve Richards on a hung parliament”

  1. Mother’s Day » Blog Archive » Marie Osmond Mothers Day Greeting Card Doll Cold in the Winter Says:

    […] Steve Richards on a hung parliament « Frank Owen’s Paintbrush […]

  2. alunephraim Says:

    You can get away with all kinds of coalitions and deals in local politics that you can’t at a level that the media actually care about (we saw this here with that Rainbow Coalition nonsense after the 2007 elections; that sort of thing is, as you note, not unknown at council level. But a certain level of media interest makes that sort of thing much, much harder to get away with). Mind you… if there’s a Tory government after the next election, that pattern will start to reverse as Labour start win back majorities in a lot of the councils where there’s a Tory-Liberal coalition now and as the Tories start to lose majorities in others.

  3. voteredgogreen Says:

    Very true, Alun. However, I think it does demonstrate that there isn’t an inbuilt aversion to coalescing with the Tories, as Steve Richards suggests, in the Lib Dem membership.
    Your point about Labour regaining its local government base should the Tories take power is a good one, but I think I’d rather have a Labour government and a load of Tory councils if I had to choose!

  4. alunephraim Says:

    Yeah, especially considering the way the Tories treated local government the last two times they were in power nationally.

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