Peter Hoskin

How can the Lib Dems deal against the backdrop of a Labour leadership contest?

How can the Lib Dems deal against the backdrop of a Labour leadership  contest?
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And so it begins. With Brown's statment earlier, the Labour leadership contenders are already creeping out of of the Downing Street woodwork.  Paul Waugh tweets that David Miliband will announce his candidacy tonight.  The News of the World reports that Ed Balls has his campaign primed and ready to detonate.  And I'd be very surprised if there aren't more names about the enter the fray.

All this activity is sending electic currents through the Westminster air – and it could end up burning Labour and the Lib Dems.  Both sides are are saying that they want to create a "strong" and "stable" government.  But how can Clegg & Co. see anything stable in this situation?  How can they talk coalition when they don't know whether, theoretically, they would be entering coaltion with Miliband, Balls, Harman, Cruddas, or any of the other pretenders to this precarious throne?  Lest it need saying: these are all very different politicians, with fairly different agendas.

So either the Lib Dems throw stability out of the window, and discredit themselves in the process.  Or they do a deal with the party which isn't convulsing amid the first spasms of a leadership contest.  That, more or less, is the choice which Nick Clegg faces this evening.