Saturday, May 08, 2010

Labour's attitude to other parties makes a wider coalition unlikely

Those who favour an arrangement whereby the Liberal Democrats allow Labour to remain in power in return for significant progress on electoral reform are face with a problem. The House of Commons consists of 650 MPs, but between them Labour (258) and the Liberal Democrats (57) can muster only 315.

So in order to command a majority in the House this "progressive" coalition would have to be expanded to include some combination of the SNP (6), Plaid (3), Green Party (1), Alliance Party (1) and SDLP (2) to reach the magic figure of 326.

Some argue that because the five Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take the oath to the Crown that would allow them to take their seats, the real figure needed to command a majority is lower than that. This may be the case, though it is probably worth hesitating before you give Sinn Fein the balance of power.

But it still means that an arrangement between Labour and the Liberal Democrats would have to be expanded to command a majority.

So how does Labour treat the smaller parties?

Earlier today Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP, called on the Lib Dems to join a "progressive alliance" involving Labour, his party and Plaid Cymru as an alternative to a deal with the Tories.

In reply, Labour issued a statement saying they were not in discussion with the SNP and describing the initiative as "a desperate attempt by Alex Salmond to make himself look relevant".

As Peter Hoskin says:
Well, that may or may not be true. But given how the Labour leadership has all the cards stacked against it, it wouldn't hurt them to be a little more circumspect over the next few days.


Vicky said...

Yes, excellent point!!

Nich Starling said...

Of course, 324 would be enough as Sinn Fein do not attend or vote.

eeore said...

The Maths work out as 191 English Labour MPs, 43 English Lib Dems and 1 English Green - with an opposition composed of 297 English Conservatives.

Or put another way roughly 10 million people will be enforrcing legislation, that in large part do not apply to them due to devolution, on 50 million.

Hardly democratic or progressive.

Richard T said...

The problem for any centre left bloc is Labour's relationship with the SNP.

I think you need to look at Labour's response to Alex Salmond in Scottish terms. We have our elections in 12 months time and in Labour's eyes, any cuddling up to the SNP in Westminster has serious implications for Holyrood. The same is likely to go for ourselves as Lib Dems.

This does not add in the very important consideration of the long spoon that you need to sup with oor Eck in any circumstances. Why do you think Tavish Scott is imune to his blandishments?

dreamingspire said...

So how did this idea of the country being run by the party that gets the popular vote come about? We are not a republic like that largest Common Law country, the USA - but the USA also has the balancing forces of both Senate and Representatives, meaning that the President, elected by a simple majority popular vote system, has a lot of work to do to get his (or could be her) own way - not that it always works all that well (the recent Bush period).
So why this crude call for a different voting system? In the present power structure, do I want to give a second preference vote to either Tory or Labour? Or to a tiny, tiny party such as the Greens? Definitely not. Reform needs to legitimise our second chamber, where Lord Erroll has been quoted as saying that they had to retain the current tranche of hereditary peers because they are the only ones who know how the House of Lords works - and work it does, particularly with a PM who behaved like Bush.

Anonymous said...

" wouldn't hurt them to be a little more circumspect over the next few days"

They are arrogant beyond belief. They do not care what you think? Their infantile behaviour shows this.

Dave said...

It was an unbelievably stupid response under the circumstances, but note that this "Labour statement" came from some unnamed source: hardly official policy, so far as I know. If I were Brown I'd want the dolt's head on a plate. But I'd be interested if anyone knows any more about it.