Talk of a new Labour-Lib Dem coalition is in the air. This is piquantly nostalgic to those of us whose earliest political memories were forged in the fire of the red-hot excitement of David Steel and Jim Callaghan’s short-lived Lib-Lab pact of 1977-78.
My initial reaction, along with many others I’m sure, was a guttural ‘oh God no’. But a moment later a different aspect of it occurred to me, in a fine example of what the young people call ‘cope’. My banter senses started to tingle. Because, yes, it would drag out and exacerbate the country’s current despairing decline. But it would also be hilarious.
There is something inherently funny about coalitions. Watching politicians who despise each other pretending to be great mates is entertaining enough when they are at least members of the same party. When they’re thrown together across the benches through expediency, it’s comedic gold. Look how popular and successful the last one was. The Lib Dems were rewarded for their selfless stand on behalf of political stability by being hoiked out of office at the earliest available opportunity and crushed electorally for the best part of a decade. But not before we got such splendid sights as Danny Alexander (remember him?) waving a yellow box at the press and saying how awful the Budget was; the same Budget that he had approved the day before.
From the Lib Dem point of view, the price of a coalition with Labour would be, as ever, the glittering prize of proportional representation. It is said that Keir Starmer is open to this idea, but then we must remember how quick he is to give his word. The idea that PR will lead inevitably to a progressive panacea and keep those beastly Tories and other nasty right-wing politicians out of power forever has always struck me as breathtakingly naive.