Oh, what the hell, since it’s hung Parliament day today at the Reptile, one more thought. There’s a lot of talk – by Peter Oborne for instance – that the Lib Dem surge/bounce/blip will usher St Vince of the retro-prognostication into the Treasury – regardless of whether the Tories or Labour win most seats in the election.
Well, I doubt it. I really doubt it. Unless Labour can win both more seats and more votes than the Tories (and lets not forget – they’re coming third in the polls…) it would be utter madness for the Lib Dems to prop them up in a coalition. Having fought a campaign entirely on hopey-changey, it would be suicidal to finish it by entering a formal coalition with Labour. This remains the case even if Gordon Brown resigns and is replaced by a Miliband – the other personnel are the same. A Lib-Lab coalition would be extremely unlikely to go the distance. Because it would be a coalition of roughly equivalent partners the scope for disagreement becomes much wider – and there is a ton of stuff the parties disagree on. An election in a year or so – after an unpopular coalition (and I suspect any Government will be unpopular for the next year or so) could see an absolute wipe-out for both of them.
So, the only real possibility for a coalition is between Lib Dem and Conservative. But this probably won’t happen either. If there’s a gulf between Labour the Lib Dem, then there’s a chasm between them and the Tories. If Nick Clegg gets into bed with David Cameron, thousands of activists will be choking on their muesli. Plus, the one thing that Clegg simply has to demand is electoral reform – and that’s the one thing that Cameron almost certainly can’t offer. An armed truce is the most likely – Clegg promises not to vote down the Queen’s Speech, and we get a period of minority Tory Government.
Almost the only scenario I can imagine that sees Vince finally getting into No. 11 is one where Labour do much better than expected, and get a good plurality of seats. Rather than go for a formal coalition, Brown just offers Cable the Chancellor’s job under him, either as a proper defection or just as a ‘bi-partisan move’ to make his minority Government look more broad-based. Would Cable go for that? He shouldn’t, but the prospect of an actual ministry would be awfully tempting…