Coffee House

The Coalition mating game

18 February 2014

2:58 PM

18 February 2014

2:58 PM

There are ornately-feathered birds in New Guinea that have less bizarre mating rituals than Labour and the Lib Dems. The two parties need to show that it isn’t impossible to work with one another in a future coalition while also keeping their own supporters reassured that they’re not desperately keen to jump into a bed with another party that activists find themselves embroiled in dirty by-election and local fights with. Hence the weird back-and-forth dances and plenty of displays of aggression that we’ve seen over the past couple of months. So Ed Balls in January suggested Nick Clegg’s head would not be the price of a Coalition after all with the Lib Dems and was immediately slapped down by Clegg. Then this week Clegg softened his language on Labour, telling Steve Richards on Radio 4 that Ed Miliband’s party had ‘changed’. That wasn’t just slapped down by Miliband but was also followed by a story in this morning’s Sun that Labour was after Clegg’s seat in Sheffield Hallam.

In case you’ve been in a high state of excitement all morning about the idea of Clegg being toppled rather than occupying his Deputy Prime Minister’s throne for the rest of eternity, it’s worth noting the following:

1. Labour are the third party in Clegg’s seat at the moment. Their enthusiasm might be helped by the Tories’ slowcoach strategy in selecting a Conservative candidate to stand in the seat, but now that the boundary changes have failed, Clegg’s 15,284 majority is safe.

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2. Students, who Labour think could turn against Clegg in angry droves in this university town, aren’t always registered to vote in their university towns but in their hometowns instead.

3. Decapitation strategies aren’t very effective. The Lib Dems of all people know that as they tried it with the Tories and many of their targets sit unscathed in Cabinet today.

Now we’ve got that out of our system, there are two serious points from this funny Coalition Mating Dance that our yellow and red friends are doing. The first is that Labour has been struggling to work out whether it should make accommodating noises about coalition, or bullish bellows about majority government. This is partly as a result of tensions between different groups in the party who think that one is possible and the other is not. Today the majority group is making the most noise. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

The second is that the Lib Dems are very carefully navigating their way to a point that is equidistant between Labour and the Tories. This is partly for policy reasons as Clegg thinks that both parties have pulled away from the centre ground (at the Speccie, we think this makes politics more interesting, but there you go), and he sees a cohort of voters stuck there without any centrist party to turn to. But it’s also because Clegg wants to set the Lib Dems up as the natural party of government, and one that improves any government of any colour.

The grid on Clegg’s wall seems to be a daily intervention from one of his ministers on the naughty Tories and their evil policies, peppered with a monthly coo at Labour. Similarly, we haven’t heard the last from Labour on how it could work with the Lib Dems. Or, if the Lib Dems are doing the cooing, how much it hates them. Coalition mating rituals are funny old things.

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Show comments
  • alabenn

    Clegg can do the dance of the seven veils to lure Labour into a liaison but his band are not playing any music, they have split up and joined other groups or just retired from the club circuit.
    A sad lonely figure, with just a few groupies in the audience cheering on a faded false dawn that briefly lit up the Rose Garden.

  • CharlietheChump

    Enough already! 15 more months of this pointless drivel and I’ll go to a Denmark Zoo for culling.

    • Alexsandr

      you must have a bit of a long neck to say that 🙂

      anyway, you don’t need to go to Denmark. just put on a lion costume and go to Longleat.

  • Alexsandr

    1. If the electorate feel the present government is a failure, then the limp dumps have no right to be in office in 2015. The argument in 2010 was that they should not form a coalition with a rejected Labour. well Labour should not form a coalition with a rejected libden party (or tory for that matter)
    2.Remember the low turnout in wythenshawe and sale. There is a vast number who didnt vote in 2010. Whether they vote, and how, may be the key in 2015
    3.UKIP may not have a very high popular vote accoring to the polls just now. But if their support is concentrated ina few places they may get seats. We will have to see what happens in the euros (and council) elections in May 2014 before even thinking about predicting 2015

    • Makroon

      IMHO, a pretty good summary.
      Clegg’s “strategy” – that the coalition government was a resounding success despite the (heavy) Tory majority being evil, disreputable and unreliable, is a LOL moment, who dreamed that up, the Oakeshott genius ?!

    • Alexsandr

      should have made point 4
      4. Labour should be wary of the libdems. They have shown themselves to be irresponsible and perfidious in government.

  • garthbanks

    Is it not strange that this year we have a Scottish referendum and the following year a general election. If Scotland becomes independent a whole host of Labour seats will vanish and a coalition with Libdems probably becomes academic with a possibility of a coalition between the Conservatives and UKIP!

    • Makroon

      Yes, it will be a constitutional dead-lock.
      Strange that few have given it a second thought. I guess the establishment are convinced that the Scots will vote ‘No’.
      If they vote ‘Yes’, we might end up with a short-term, grand coalition, until the deed is done !

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Well, a short term LibLabCon coalition would be preferable to the perpetual one they form today.

    • vaeliard

      Yes, if Scotland became independent, the Rest Of UK would be a very conservative place and the whole electoral reality would be much further to the right. But since independence is unlikely to happen, the real question is what will happen when the West Lothian question is pushed to the forefront as Scotland inevitably gets further devolution (as ALL parties are now committed to in the case of a NO vote). If the overwhelmingly Socialist Scot MPs were denied a vote on England only matters (and the same for Wales and Ulster), England would be permanently Tory.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Something like 1.5 – 3 million voters have switched from the Libdems to Labour since the signing of the Coalition Agreement. How many of those new Labour supporters are going to welcome Miliband fornicating with a Clegg who has previously fornicated with Cameron beforehand? Associating with (political) whores is usually frowned upon in this country.

    Miliband’s choices are even more delicate than is being made out!

    Of course as for the Libdems I suspect they’d do a deal with the SWP if they thought it would give them a whiff of power.

    • vaeliard

      There is also the fact that around 80% of Lib Dem seats are Liberal vs. Conservative, where Labour gets barely 10% of the vote and has no chance (mostly in the South and South West). So while Labour gets a boost in voters nationwide, the Tories will get a boost in the number of seats as they are likely to pick up about 30 Lib seats while Labour are only likely to pick up about 7 or 8. The big question will be whether Labour will be able to hold onto enough of the Liberal deserters to compensate for the Tories boost in number of seats (former Lib seats in the south). The drop in Lib Dem vote does not automatically translate to an advantage for Labour.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        Yes, it does. Those voters will go over mostly to the Millipedes. A smattering to the other parties, and some may stay home, but the plurality to the Millipedes.

  • Rockin Ron

    4. It is likely that many ‘anti-Clegg’ candidates will be standing and that will split the protest vote. I think Clegg will be re-elected, but he will be back in opposition and not want to hang around long. A cosy sinecure in a diplomatic post somewhere, maybe?

    • vaeliard

      Zimbabwe or Venezuela?

  • Mynydd

    The main points,in Labour’s calculation in respect to a coalition with the Lib Dems would be, Mr Clegg’s party lost seats at the last General Election when everything was in his favour. How many more will he loose now he his far from popular. How will the decline in Lib Dem membership effect it’s ability to fight each and every Lib Dem/Labour marginal. Mr Clegg’s own seat is not worth the time and energy when there are much more low hanging fruit. At a General Election money counts and Mr Clegg is short on cash. As thing stand at the moment Mr Clegg wont have enough seats for Lib Dem’s to come into the equation.

    • vaeliard

      You don’t need ‘enough’ seats. If both the Tories and Labour were equal, even a small number would suffice to have the Libs in a position to choose which party takes power. Because many Lib Dem seats have sizable majorities, most polls currently indicate that they will get about 30 seats, even on a vote of about 10% nationwide. Because UKIP suffer from the same problems that the Lib Dems did in their early days (where the Libs got a fraction of the number of seats on much the same vote as today, because of lack of incumbency), UKIP are unlikely to get more than 5 MPs, even with as much as 15% nationwide.

      Add to this the situation where the Conservatives are getting close to Labour in the polls (certainly as close as many winning governments have been at this stage in the past), with an unpopular and untried Labour leader and a booming economy, and it’s possible that the Tories can equalise it or even get slightly ahead by election day. But because the system is totally gerrymandered in Labour’s favour, the Tories would find it near impossible to get a majority, just as they did against the utterly unelectable Brown. So unless Miliband comes through for Labour or the economy tanks, you may find Cameron needing Clegg’s MPs to get his majority, even if Clegg scrapes home with just 20 or 30 MPs.

      • Mynydd

        Mr Cameron failed to win an overall majority when faced with “the utterly unelectable Brown” so why do you think an unpopular Cameron can produce an overall majority this time round. If it came to it that Labour and Conservatives were equal, there will be parties elected other than Lib Dem who could join with Mr Miliband.

  • HookesLaw

    The LDs have been a waste of space in govt. As such I doubt that anyone can see any real reason to vote for them. They have attacked their own coalition patners at every opportunity rather than, by defending a common platform which they signed up to, attacking the opposition. This undercuts their own government and their own electoral future.

    Probably the only thing dimmer than a libdem is a typical thick tory backbencher.

    • Smithersjones2013

      Probably the only thing dimmer than a libdem is a typical thick tory backbencher.

      Well the dimwits who were keen to go into Coalition with the Libdems don’t seem too bright either.

      • vaeliard

        What’s the bet that if Labour had got just 10 or 20 MPs more, enough to make a Lib-Lab coalition numerically possible, you would have seen Labour prostituting themselves with the Libs in the rose garden instead. Politicians will do anything for 5 years in power.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …the lad doesn’t seem to do irony.

  • AnotherDave

    I think the fact 70% of our laws/regulations come from Brussels, makes the notion of differentiation between three parties committed to remain in the EU a nonsense.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/10629258/European-Union-migrants-work-harder-than-Britons-says-Viviane-Reding.html

    There is the status quo party, and there is UKIP.

    • HookesLaw

      We will still sign up to those regulations even if out of the EU. Stop peddling Saint Nigel’s Big Lie.
      And cheerleading for Saint Nigel as you do only means gifting the country to europhile Labour. As such you are the biggest traitor of the lot.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Oh dear for the umpteenth time. At present we have to adhere to EU directives in everything we do or as occasionally ignore them as is Parliament’s wish but basically we do what we are told.

        If we withdraw we will only have to respond to those EU requirements negotiated in our agreement with them and then only when dealing with the EU. What we do with the rest of the world would be none of their business. We would be able to act in our interests rather than in the interests of the EU which is generally the situation currently. Now I’m sure even a first class dimwit like you can wrap your tiny little mind around that even if you will continue to lie about it!

        There is an enormous difference between being a member of the EU and not being a member!

        • Alexsandr

          Thanks. I could not be bothered to reply to this broken gramophone record.

          • Makroon

            Which one, Smithers, Hooky or Tele ?

            • Alexsandr

              Hookes Law
              donrt call him hooky -hooky is a fine ale from Hook Norton Brewery.
              this disqus is not fit for purpose. doesnt have enough indentations for complex discussions.

  • Kitty MLB

    Continuing with the feathered analogy…
    Cleggie is a turkey waiting for Christmas, who spends much of his time
    like a ostrich with his head in the sand of electoral oblivion.
    Whilst Ed’ the unready’ Milipede is a vulture, acting like a little chicken
    who believes he is the goose who will deliver the countries golden egg.
    Heaven forfend, those two ever mate.

    • telemachus

      Dear dear Kitty
      There will be no need
      There will be a sound majority for Ed in 2015, ensured by the Ukip splitting of the Tory vote in the 43 key marginals
      Clegg will look down over his rump party envious of the Grimond days

      • Kitty MLB

        Dear dear telemachus ( who has been gone from the murky corridors of this place for quite a while- were you at Gulag ?)
        Wee little Ed ‘ the unready’ Milipede will flee when the spot light
        is back on Labour, like a chicken caught in the headlights- he will
        freeze- frozen chicken! Just look at how business see Labour
        and the economy is improving…See what you have done,
        I am not even a Cameroon.
        You may find that UKIP will do a lot of damage to the working
        class Labour vote ( who have no party) associating UKIP
        just with the Conservatives is a huge error, and no one will
        trust Big bouncy Ed Balls again..
        and that will upset you personally, will it not telemachus.

        • Nicholas chuzzlewit

          Probably on a training course at Fascist Labour HQ.

          • Kitty MLB

            That explains a lot, Nicholas.
            Fascist Labour HQ is the place where they remove all sense, reason and original thought….
            Stuffed leftie parrots who should be sent back to Labour HQ
            and placed on shelf. ( perhaps not telemachus though,
            its amusing to torment the lost little soul)

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        And then the IMF will take over in 2016 with growth destroyed and the economy in tatters thanks to the fascist Labour Party.

  • Denis_Cooper

    According to this:

    http://www.electoralcalculus.c

    at present there is a 74% chance that Labour will win an outright majority.

    You see, the Tories have some problems to overcome: first, that the collapse in support for the LibDems has been accompanied by a rise in support for Labour far more than for the Tories; second, that because the LibDems blocked the boundary changes the Tories still need to be about 6% ahead of Labour to have a chance of getting a majority, when thanks partly to the first problem they’ve been fairly consistently running about 6% behind Labour for the past eighteen months or more; and third, compared to the other two a relatively small problem, there is the rise of UKIP which may be hurting the Tories slightly more than it is hurting Labour.

    So it’s understandable why at present Labour sees no great need to cosy up to the LibDems as potential coalition partners.

    • HookesLaw

      Yiu are not an objective observer.
      Voting UKIP will give us a europhile left wing govt and no ferefendum and undoubtably closer links to Europe by stealth. And given UKIPs increasingly nasty nature toward colured people as shown by ‘Raw Englands’ love of the BNP, you will have to hold your nose in other ways to vote for them.

      • Denis_Cooper

        I’m certainly far more objective than you are, but in any case you can put your own interpretation of the empirical evidence of those charts and devise an argument that they show how the Tories’ prospects at the next election are being significantly affected by the rise of UKIP, even though it is quite clear that they are not being so affected.

      • Smithersjones2013

        And you are not a rational observer and increasingly are resorting to the sort of vile and reprehensible smears in your desperation that previously would be associated with the lowest of Labour’s sewer dwellers.

        You claim the Tories are different from Labour but you are the living proof they are not.

      • edward

        Vile idiot.

  • MalcolmRedfellow

    Can you properly define “effective”, as in Decapitation strategies aren’t very effective?

    At this stage every party should be working up strategies to win, and strategies to disorientate.

    Which one is the Labour ploy on Hallam?

    Oh, and by the way, students are (often, but not guaranteed) sharp enough to vote where their votes are more likely to make a difference. In Hallam there may, just may be additional animus.

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