Is talk of a grand coalition farfetched?

Talk of coalition (albeit out of the public limelight) is currently very much in fashion at Westminster. Polls pointing towards a hung parliament have led to commentators and pundits speculating about coalitions (formal and informal) and which parties could work together. Of the many potential “marriages” that have been discussed, one has tended to be neglected; a coalition between Labour and the Conservatives.

This possibility was raised and discussed by Lord Baker of Dorking in an interview for the Independent on Saturday. The Conservative peer called for a grand coalition between the major two parties if the SNP held the balance of power in the event of a hung parliament. His comments have been criticised by the Labour Party who have accused the peer of having ulterior motives. However he is not the first political figure to mention this as a possibility, with Labour MP Gisela Stewart also floating it.

A grand coalition between these two parties has happened before, but only in wartime. In peacetime Britain, this has never really been contemplated before. Any coalition between these two parties would hold a comfortable working majority and would not have to worry about getting any legislation through Parliament. A deal between the two parties would also rule out any negotiation, and possible concessions, with other parties, notable the SNP.

Coalitions between major opposing parties have happened and succeeded in other European countries most famously in Germany. However, because of our voting system, the concept of coalition is something we are only just getting used to in this country.  There was considerable drama and excitement about the recent agreement between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. Could the public cope with a deal between these particular parties?

Logic says that such a deal is far-fetched. Lord Baker would of course have known this when he made the comments and was perhaps being mildly mischievous.  Labour will not be helped in Scotland by such talk, and arguably the greatest beneficiaries of such talk is the Tories. Despite both being unionist parties, fundamental political differences between the two parties are substantial and it is hard to see how they could agree on a working platform from which to govern.

These comments did cause some excitement and theoretically a deal is possible, but the honest answer is that it simply won’t happen. There could be many coalitions and alliances after the General Election, but this won’t be one of them.

Article by Mike Hough

Photograph – The Political Quarterly

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