Monday, March 05, 2007
Lib Dems confirm coalition plans with Labour.
In yesterdays keynote speech to the Lib Dem conference leader Ming Campbell set five 'tests' which a Labour Government would have to pass before he would enter negotiations over a coaliton.
Crucially, for Lib dems, changing the electoral system isn't one of them.
For years the Lib Dems have refused to say if they would go into a power sharing deal with either of the main parties ahead of a general election that gave a hung result; a position I have always said would be unsustainable if polls suggested a hung parliament looks likely.
Obviously, given the Labour and Lib Dems shared past and the fact that the have worked in coalitions in Scotland and in wales, most people imagined that the Lib Dems would favour a coalition with Labour but this is the first hard confirmation.
What is even more interesting is the 'low price tag' Menzies is attaching to a deal. Previous talks (as happened in the lead-up to the 1997 election) failed over the Lib Dems insistance that any coalition would introduce Proportional Representation as the price of their support.
The BBC were reporting yesterday that there was disagreement amongst senior Lib Dems about the significance of Menzies moves; with many on the right of the party distancing themselves from his speech.
This is a very interesting -if slightly risky- political move. There are great benefits to the Lib Dems in the north of England and in Scotland in being seen as the 'sensible' partner in a left of centre Government which will undoubtably increase the Lib dems appeal north of the border.
However the prospects for Lib dems in the South of the country under such a scenario look decidedly grim. If the majority of voters in England decide that they don't want a Labour Government why would they vote for the Lib dems in marginal seats like Torbay, who are promising to prop up Gordon Brown in No 10?