Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

The Coalition mating game

There are ornately-feathered birds in New Guinea that have less bizarre mating rituals than Labour and the Lib Dems. The two parties need to show that it isn’t impossible to work with one another in a future coalition while also keeping their own supporters reassured that they’re not desperately keen to jump into a bed with another party that activists find themselves embroiled in dirty by-election and local fights with. Hence the weird back-and-forth dances and plenty of displays of aggression that we’ve seen over the past couple of months. So Ed Balls in January suggested Nick Clegg’s head would not be the price of a Coalition after all with the Lib Dems and was immediately slapped down by Clegg. Then this week Clegg softened his language on Labour, telling Steve Richards on Radio 4 that Ed Miliband’s party had ‘changed’. That wasn’t just slapped down by Miliband but was also followed by a story in this morning’s Sun that Labour was after Clegg’s seat in Sheffield Hallam.

In case you’ve been in a high state of excitement all morning about the idea of Clegg being toppled rather than occupying his Deputy Prime Minister’s throne for the rest of eternity, it’s worth noting the following:

1. Labour are the third party in Clegg’s seat at the moment. Their enthusiasm might be helped by the Tories’ slowcoach strategy in selecting a Conservative candidate to stand in the seat, but now that the boundary changes have failed, Clegg’s 15,284 majority is safe.

2. Students, who Labour think could turn against Clegg in angry droves in this university town, aren’t always registered to vote in their university towns but in their hometowns instead.

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