Alex Massie

The Lib Dems & Labour: Battered Wife Syndrome?

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Pete is right: the Liberal Democrats have their issue and it's a good one. It makes sense for them to be more hawkish on the deficit and debt than either of the larger parties. That way they can present themselves as a sensible restraining influence in the event of a hung parliament that creates room for a coalition.

But who should that coalition be with? Understandably Clegg and Cable will do their utmost to avoid answering that question; doubtless they will insist that it all depends on, you know, the result.

Nevertheless, having reinvented themselves as Deficit Hawks it would, on the face of it, be absurd to the Lib Dems to climb into bed with the Labour party. Sure, they have substantial differences with the Tories (not least on europe and electoral reform) but then they difer from Labour too (not least on civil liberties - an area in which the Lib Dems, again, are much the best of the parties). More broadly: if fiscal retrenchment and a certain honesty about the need for accepting the need for pruning becomes your calling card, it would seem absurd to come to any arrangement with the party responsible for creating the mess that you've taken as your signature issue and that's your pitch for throwing the incumbents out.

Right? How can the Lib Dems make the public finances their issue and then, post-election, forgive Labour for wrecking them? This does not seem sensible or intellectually consistent. Unless I'm missing something wouldn't a Labour-Liberal coalition suggest that the Lib Dems were suffering from some political version of Battered Wife Syndrome?

One, I think, for our friends at Liberal Vision and elsewhere in the Lib Dem (and lapsed Lib Dem) blogosphere...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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