Conservative-DUP deal opens up possibilities for Labour

The confidence and supply deal shows how Labour could get into power if it needed to form a minority government after a future election.

The title of this article can imply two things. The first is that the current Tory-DUP deal puts the government in defence-mode and puts Labour in attack position. The Conservatives are wounded, and as the watered-down Queen’s speech shows, the opposition has more power than before.

But secondly, the Conservative-DUP deals indicates what could happen if Labour emerge as the largest party after the next election, but fail to get a majority. The Conservatives’ autopilot line of coalition of chaos will not play as well next time around within the context of the current Conservative-DUP deal. Labour would therefore be free to make arrangements with other parties.

Of course, Jeremy Corbyn – or whoever leads Labour – would likely say they intend to win an outright majority so will refrain from discussing post-election deals before the votes are cast, but a hung parliament could throw up any number of possibilities.

Unlike the Conservatives, whose only likely partners were the DUP, the considerably weakened UKIP or the Liberal Democrats under the right set of circumstances, Labour could potentially rely on the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Greens or Plaid Cymru. In a Labour-led hung parliament, talks of a progressive alliance would emerge and there would be three main options for the Labour party:

Labour minority government - going it alone

If there were a progressive majority in the House of Commons, it would be unlikely for the SNP and others to pass a vote of no confidence in a Labour minority government that made no deals to stay in power. However, such a situation would likely mean little legislation getting passed and the risk of instability, hardly ideal for a party with a radical plan for Britain.

A confidence and supply deal

The current confidence and supply deal keeps the Conservatives in power, and it has also greatly benefitted the DUP. A Labour minority government could hypothetically have a similar arrangement with the SNP, who could demand another referendum or more powers for Scotland in exchange for ensuring Labour gets some of its plans through, but as the weakened Queen’s speech showed, confidence and supply reduces a government’s plans. The DUP have done well out of the deal, ensuring that the pensions triple-lock and universal Winter Fuel Allowance stay in place, suggesting that whoever backed Labour in such an arrangement could also benefit.

 

Coalition of chaos

The final option for a would-be Labour administration is a coalition. Under the last coalition the Conservatives did well, winning seats from their former coalition partners in the 2015 general election while increasing their share of the vote. The coalition lasted five years and passed plenty of legislation with both parties compromising and finding common-ground. Similarly, in Germany the CDU/CSU’s coalition with the FDP benefitted the Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU. However, in both situations the minority party suffered greatly. The Lib Dems won just eight seats in 2015 and the German FDP lost all their seats in the Bundestag, according to DW.

With the coalition so fresh in everyone’s minds, it would be surprising if a minority party went for a coalition, however, it could get a lot done. If it were to happen then the minor party would likely try to demand as much as possible in order to avoid wipe-out.

For each deal it also depends on the parliamentary arithmetic, but one thing is clear: how the Conservative-DUP deal plays out could have a significant impact on Labour's route to power in such a scenario.

Can Labour win the next election? What sort of government would it lead?