With Gordon Brown desperately trying to cut a deal with Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg to keep Labour in power (even though Brown has pledged to step down by September), here are several reasons why a Labour-Liberal coalition would collapse swiftly if implemented, with new elections likely to be held within a few months.
1. It would have no moral legitimacy. Labour lost heavily in this election, and the Liberals were humiliated. The Conservatives won the largest number of seats and votes by a large margin, yet will be kept out of power. The public and much of the media will be overwhelmingly opposed to such a government.
2. The coalition would not have a majority, with just 315 seats. Labour and the Liberals would have to rely on the support of the Scottish National party (6 seats) and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru (3 seats) to pass legislation. There is no guarantee they will support the coalition government. The SNP in particular has a history of bad blood with Labour, their main competitor in Scotland, and could very easily bring the government down.
3. Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown don’t get along. The proposed deal envisages Gordon Brown staying in power possibly as late as September, until a Labour successor is chosen. Brown and Clegg have clashed ferociously in the past, and there is tremendous mutual hostility.
4. There is strong Labour party opposition to such a deal. Several current and former Labour ministers, including Justice Secretary Jack Straw and former Home Secretary David Blunkett, have spoken out against a coalition with the Liberals. The prospect of a Labour backbench revolt in the early stages of the government would be extremely high.
5. The next prime minister would be unelected as well. David Miliband is the frontrunner to succeed Gordon Brown as Labour party leader. Under the proposed deal, Miliband, or whoever wins the Labour leadership contest, would become the second unelected PM in a row, an unprecedented development in modern British politics, and would be propelled to office in large part by the trade unions who still wield great power within Labour’s voting structures. Such a prime minister would lack real legitimacy, not only in the eyes of British electors, but on the world stage as well, significantly weakening Britain’s standing.
– Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation.