My column for Total Politics: Hold tight, get lucky

by Stephen Tall on January 8, 2014

My latest column for Total Politics is now available to read online. Its titled ‘Hold tight, get lucky’, with the slightly inflammatory sub-heading: ‘Lib Dems who want a coalition with Labour should consider the consequences of letting go of the Tories, warns Stephen Tall’. Read the whole piece and you’ll see that’s only one part of my message.

Here’s how it concludes:

Here’s the third remarkable thing – in spite of everything the party has endured since 2010, three-quarters of party members want the party to continue playing an active part in government after 2015. You might expect our MPs to continue to be enamoured by the novelty of ministerial office (either its continuing reality or future prospect), but that the poor, bloodied infantry is still prepared to go over the top in the hope of advancing the liberal frontier a few more yards is pretty admirable/ foolhardy* (*delete according to taste).

There is a paradox, though. By a 2:1 majority, more Lib Dem members would prefer Labour as our partners to the Conservatives next time. Yet among the party’s 57 held seats, the Conservatives are in second place in 38. This means the post-2015 Lib Dem parliamentary party is likely to be dominated by MPs in Tory-facing seats (usually with Labour in a distant third). True, any deal with Labour might allow us to squeeze their vote still further in those areas, but the bigger risk will be Tory-turned-Lib Dem voters returning to the fold to get rid of Labour.

So if, as expected, we lose a chunk of our current seats to Labour in 2015 as a result of our collaboration with the Conservatives, it’s at least as plausible that we’ll then lose a chunk of those seats that remain to the Tories in 2020 if we go into coalition with Labour. Talk about a double whammy.

The party that’s become famous for the success of its ‘squeeze message’ – “Only the Lib Dems can beat the Conservatives/Labour* here!” (* delete according to seat) – could well become the victim of the biggest squeeze since the party was all but eliminated in the 1950s. You know what? We’d better be careful what we wish for.

To read how it begins, you’ll have to click here.

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