Thoughts on Lib-Lab

Gordon Brown has, it would seem, approached various Lib Dems with a view to joining the Government in some capacity, possible at the Cabinet table. The story was broken, I think, by the Guardian this morning. I can't help but think that this might be the first shot in a coalition negotiation in case the next general election ends up with no-one having an overall majority. The people are pretty well respected - Paddy Ashdown, Lord Carlile, Lord Lester and Rabbi Julia Neuberger.

1. It certainly puts the cat amongst the pigeons. One of the problems with being a third party is how much you sacrifice to get into government. The debate now has to go on at the top, and it already seems to be causing splits.

2. I'd originally heard that Paddy Ashdown would have a job around Iraq rather than Northern Ireland. That would seem to me to be more logical - he has a track record of 'dealing with Muslims' in Bosnia, he's already involved in Northern Ireland as the head of the parades body and Northern Ireland seems to be settling down. Moreover, the LibDems are best placed to oppose Iraq in total and it's where most help is needed.

3. It gets both Labour and the LibDems used to and thinking about a coalition. My suspicion is that the leadership of the LibDems, particularly the Orange Book faction, are to the right of the membership and LibDem voters. I don't think it's controversial to say that a lot of LibDem voters vote yellow because they see it as being to the left of Labour's red. It will be talked about by ordinary LibDems and may flow upwards - if the choice were between Labour and Tory, who would the LibDems rather go with? I think it will be Labour.

4. It makes Gordon Brown look statesmanlike and above narrow, party politics when there was probably no danger of the LibDems accepting happening.

5. It takes the heat from the press off the people who are likely to be in government, giving Brown a bit more time to decide who to put where. Tony Blair didn't leave enough time in his diary for the negotiations about filling government posts and the job may, particularly depending on the outcome of the deputy leadership elections, be rather more difficult as there are rather more people with track records, good and bad, in government.

6. It will be no surprise if there are more talks with people like Paddy. Party aside, he does seem to have something of a knack for conflict resolution. Equally, bringing in the independent reviewer of terrorism from the LibDems would make it harder for the LibDems to bang on the civil liberties drum.

7. One wonders who was the driver for working with the LibDems, so rapidly dropped after Labour's first, crushing general election victory, between 1994 and 1997.

8. Lord Lester, the LibDems' Lords equalities spokesperson, seems to be the most likely candidate, willing as he is to join in on constitutional reform. Any constitutional changes should need cross-party support, and Lester's presence would make it easier to woo LibDems. I wonder if Lester will say that there should be gradual change, starting with the Lords, before PR in some form for the Commons happens.

Interesting things have been written by Skipper, Threescore Years & Ten and the inimitable Iain Dale.




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