Now that Ed Miliband has moved Labour onto the ground occupied by many Liberal Democrat members and voters (if not necessarily the current party leadership), it's encouraging to see that a conversation has started over at Liberal Democrat Voice about the possibility of ditching the coalition with the Tories before this parliament is out. Matt Gallagher raises a very interesting prospect, and one which hasn't received enough attention thus far - what will be the psychological impact if, as seems highly likely, Labour at some point make enough by-election gains to enable them (theoretically) to form a coalition with the Lib Dems without the support of the nationalist parties? If by that stage there are opinion polls showing massive disapproval ratings for the Tory/Lib Dem administration, and perhaps even majority support for an alternative coalition, the enhanced arithmetical viability of that alternative might present the Lib Dems with a severe dilemma.
However, where Gallagher's argument takes a wander off into the bizarre is his suggestion that the by-election gains Labour need to trigger this scenario would come at the expense of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, rather than the Tories. I'm not sure he's thought that one through - perhaps he was misled by the frequency of Labour/SNP by-election battles in the last parliament? Anyway, I left this comment -
"For the life of me I can’t see why Matt is thinking of by-election gains from the nationalist parties rather than the Tories. As far as the SNP are concerned Labour would only have a theoretical chance in two of the six seats, and what are the statistical chances of either of those falling vacant? Angus Brendan MacNeil and Stewart Hosie are both in the pink as far as I’m aware!
The truth is that the arithmetic for a progressive coalition is already there, because the nationalists would be happy to give it a fair wind. But, sadly, some Lib Dems were determined to promote the narrative that “the numbers simply aren’t there” in order to justify their unholy alliance with the Tories, and a number of Labour neanderthals did the same because they were so horrified by the idea of having to work with other parties. 'Purity or death' is the mantra for the likes of John Reid and Tom Harris."