A minority, or a coalition? Why not both?

I’ve thought for a while now that we are currently living in a year that like 1910 and 1974, will involve two general elections. The polls are level, and at the moment, just aren’t moving. The impending Labour collapse in Scotland makes it almost impossible that they will be able to get above 300 seats, let alone a majority. The Tories, meanwhile, are set to pick up seats from the Lib Dems, but according to pretty much every poll, will then lose more to Labour.

Of course, whilst a second election would be fantastic for nerds like myself, it’s unlikely that any of the main parties would relish fighting two campaigns in one year. Labour’s options post-election on paper seem to be less limited than the Tories. But what options are there exactly?


The May2015 blog has been fantastic throughout the campaign, and recently produced an excellent article, giving the reasons that they believe that Ed Miliband is set to become Prime Minister. Much of the analysis focuses on the likelihood of the current coalition, even with UKIP and DUP support, being unable to muster enough seats to outvote Labour and the SNP.


Of course, the SNP are Labour’s huge problem in this election. Yes, Nicola Sturgeon has performed well in the debates, and yes, her progressive rhetoric is going down well with some on the centre-left in England. The fact remains that the SNP’s ultimate aim is independence. Polling shows that Labour voters see a deal with the SNP as less palatable than coalition with the Lib Dems. If Labour can possibly avoid doing a deal with the SNP, then they would jump at the opportunity.


But is this possible? Let’s take the May2015 forecast:


CON (270)
LAB (273)
LD (26)
SNP (55)
UKIP (3)
GRN (1)


A Labour/SNP deal takes them to 328, over the magic majority number. But, what if Labour decide to do things differently? The key platform that the SNP are running on, is that they are an anti-Tory party. What if Labour were to instead isolate the Tories completely, and go into coalition with the Lib Dems?


Lab/LD coalition: 299 seats
Con: 270


So why, you might ask, would Labour go into coalition with the Lib Dems when it doesn’t get them over the majority mark?


Well, firstly, there is a huge difference between Labour having the Lib Dems alongside them in government than in opposition. Any minority government will need to win votes. It’s much easier to vote against the government when in opposition – Lib Dems with a stake in the government would be far less likely to oppose government votes.


Secondly, a Lab/Lib coalition would be stable. Whatever faults or problems the Lib Dems may have had in government, there has never been any sign throughout the last five years that the government is suddenly going to implode. The Lab/Lib coalition would have around 30 more seats than the Tories on current polling. And – crucially – would the SNP dare to vote with the Tories on key votes?


It’s a risky strategy. Personally, I think that if the SNP were responsible for bringing down a Labour government, or voted against progressive policies, their popularity in Scotland would soon disintegrate. But if the SNP supported the coalition on key votes, or even abstained, then suddenly Labour have the benefits of a stable government, and not having to make any deals with the SNP.


Of course, this also depends on the Libs holding around 25 seats. Any fewer, and suddenly the upside of having them in coalition starts to disappear.


A minority coalition with the Lib Dems – could it be the solution for Labour?

2 thoughts on “A minority, or a coalition? Why not both?

  1. Why involve the Lib Dems at all? If the SNP wanted to side with the tories bring down a minority Labour government they would almost certainly be able to whether or not Labour had the extra 20 or so Lib Dem seats available. If the results are anywhere close to what the polls are indicating I don’t see why Labour would need to do a deal with anyone, I think a minority government would be pretty stable as any no confidence motion would need the support of the SNP who would almost certainly lose a large amount of support in the resulting election for helping the Conservatives bring down a Labour government.

    • Because even with SNP support, Labour are going to need more votes if their own backbenchers rebel on certain issues. This was one big advantage the current coalition has.

      My whole point is that I don’t think the SNP will dare to bring down a Labour led government – but having the LDs on board may make things easier for Labour in terms of having less opposition.

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