It’s less than four months until the general election and speculation is mounting. One possible government is a Lib-Lab arrangement. Could it work?
Firstly, a lot depends on the make up of the next parliament. With the SNP expected to make gains in Scotland and the Lib Dems likely to lose a significant number of seats then it’s possible that three or more parties might be needed to form a coalition.
But let’s say Labour pulls ahead in the run up to the election but falls just short of a majority. A Labour-SNP deal looks unlikely, but what if one option was a Lib-Lab coalition?
The two parties have their differences, but they could work together on constitutional and electoral reform.
Labour recently revealed that it would support lowering the voting age to 16, something which has been Liberal Democrat policy for a long time. Working together to allow this to happen would show unity in the 'new coalition'.
Additionally, according to the BBC, in November Ed Miliband said his party would support an elected ‘Senate’ to replace the House of Lords. The Liberal Democrats have been in favour of an elected upper chamber for years. Furthermore, if the coalition faced some rebellion over the issue then other parties such as the SNP favour a change to the upper chamber. Such an issue could be much more easily agreed upon than under the previous coalition.
Another thing the two parties could potentially work together is on the issue of the voting system. It’s unlikely that the Liberal Democrats will press for a dramatic change to the UK-wide voting system so soon after the AV referendum of 2011. However, one area they could work on is on the voting system used for council elections in England. The two parties have a history of this, having been in coalition in the Scottish Parliament to change the Scottish councils’ voting system from FPTP to STV. Could this be repeated in England under a new coalition?
Overall, a lot depends on the arithmetic in May. There might be a repeat of the current set-up, or a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition. There could even be a three party coalition. This election is completely unpredictable, but if the election produces a result that could mean a Lib-Lab coalition, then electoral and constitutional reform is an area in which the two parties share a lot of common ground.