Labour and the Liberal Democrats have been talking about a coalition. This was this morning’s revelation, that the two parties of the Left have been cosying up to each other behind closed doors with a view to including such talent as can be found on the LibDem benches in Brown’s first government. Then someone blew the gaff, and it’s not quite clear who. Was it Brown wanting to clear the decks after failed negotiations, or was it a LibDem insider who thought the whole idea mad? The latter seems more likely. If Basildon in Britain in microcosm, our experience suggests that it is the Liberal Democrats who suffer by getting too close to Labour. We used to have 17 Liberal Democrats on our Council, but then they made the tactical error of supporting a Labour administration that was already pretty unpopular with their own voters. This was pointed out at some length by the local Tories and a few elections later we are now down to 3 LibDems. A Brown/Ming deal could see that scenario writ large. With the only opposition to the government falling to the Conservatives, the result could be carnage for LibDem MPs and it is not surprising if one of them showed a few vestiges of a survival instinct.
This fiasco doesn’t hurt Brown, but it really hurts Ming, who wasn’t exactly smiling Mr. Popular anyway. The LibDem leadership stakes is increasingly looking a worthwhile punt.