A formal alliance or non-aggression pact is highly unlikely unless the coalition survives to 2015. The government will collapse before then if enough Liberal Democrats believe its record is indefensible. However, if it doesn’t then the parties must defend their joint record and in doing so will offer a collaborative future.
The alternative is absurd. Nick Clegg and his party could not conceivably campaign against the Tories’ ‘nasty ideological cuts’ or savage public service reform. Equally, the electorate won’t take kindly to being told they were bloody fools not to have voted Tory in 2010.
A deal would have to come before the campaign, not in its aftermath. Centrist grandees of the Major era have been whispering that the government closer co-operation is inevitable - either through a formal alliance or a non-aggression pact, of which the latter is more probable (Alex has some other suggestions). Yesterday was an indication that elements of the governing parties are considering the pros and cons – the cons take the obvious form of a mutinous Tory right.
PS: Nothing is cast in stone. With the determined George Osborne as the Tories’ chief strategist, a plan to fight to win outright at the expense of the Liberals is surely being concocted.