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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An emerging Lib-Lab Pact?

Of all the articles to appear in the Daily Telegraph, this was one I did not expect. Mary Riddell suggests that a Liberal Democrat-Labour pact is starting to emerge and that this is a direct threat to David Cameron.

She starts by noting that the Liberal Democrats' creditable second place in the Oldham by-election has reinvigorated Mr Clegg, while Mr Miliband's party registered 43 per cent, six points above the Tories, in a weekend poll. She then points out that Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' deputy leader, is talking to Labour about blocking the abolition of the Educational Allowance (EMA):

The complicity does not stop there. Mr Miliband's concession on Andrew Marr that he might do business with Mr Clegg were he to be "the sinner who repenteth" hardly constitutes a love-in, especially given the bad blood of recent months. But the deputy prime minister is said, in private, to be responding warmly. Clegg allies assure me that Mr Miliband "has hugely moderated his tone". Though nothing has been decided, Mr Clegg is also open to sharing a pro-AV platform with his rival. "It would almost be odd if they did not," says one friend.

Mr Clegg, who is hoping to work closely with Labour's Liam Byrne on developing social impact bonds, a financial tool to pay for projects such as rehabilitating ex-offenders, also talks regularly to Mr Miliband, who favours collaboration on Lords reform. "They should speak, and they do speak," says a Cleggite.

She says that the Liberal Democrats are more resilient and stable than they look but Nick Clegg must know that he would be unwise to alienate further those on the Left of his party:

He and Mr Miliband, both long-termists, are already looking beyond the next general election. As Professor John Curtice has argued, hung parliaments may be here to stay. With the two-party vote lower in 2010 than at any time since 1922 and the Lib Dems' disappointing 23 per cent still the largest share for a third party since 1929, the era of clear results achieved by first-past-the-post seems over. With or without AV, coalitions are the future. Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg may soon need one another. The Labour leader knows he cannot risk isolation in an age of collusion.

She concludes that Mr Miliband has overcome a shaky start, and Mr Clegg, though bruised, has survived his bungee jump from icon to hate figure:

If control orders are sufficiently watered down – and the word is they may be – that will count as a victory for him, as will the paternity leave extension he outlined yesterday and the 80 per cent elected House of Lords now in prospect. Harmony should further embellish both leaders' images.

The obvious loser of this togetherness is David Cameron. Yesterday he stepped out from behind the human shield of Mr Clegg to defend misguided health reforms that many professionals regard as ushering in worse patient care and back-door privatisation. Suddenly, Mr Cameron is being haunted by broken promises to end top-down NHS restructuring, to cap banker bonuses at £2,000 and to limit fuel duty increases.

To his Right, Tory hardliners denounce him. To his Left, the Lib Lab truth and reconciliation process has begun. Any political courtship between Mr Clegg and Mr Miliband may prove, for the Prime Minister, to be a very dangerous liaison.

How this pans out could prove to be very interesting.
It all seems very precarious at the moment :\
Lib Lab coalition? Perhaps we could see a trail run here in Wales after the May elections.
Just need Plaid to lose a couple of seats to the Libdems and with Labour probably winning 30 seats it might just happen.
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