Peter Hoskin

Thinking the unthinkable

Thinking the unthinkable
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Woah, hang on there. A Labour and Conservative coalition in the event of a hung Parliament? Crazy talk, surely? But that’s what Martin Kettle devotes his column to in today's Guardian. It’s only unthinkable, he writes, “until you start thinking about it.” Hm.

So rather than dismissing the prospect out of hand, I thought I’d register one particular complaint against it. While many of Kettle’s arguments about the fracturing of the party system and the blurring lines between the main parties make sense, the idea that they might coalesce in the aftermath of this year’s election ignores one crucial factor: the Labour leadership.

Let’s just say, for the sake of Kettle’s argument, that Gordon Brown achieves a hung Parliament after the election. Will he still be Labour leader? If so, then I really can’t imagine that his first post-election action will be to secure a pact with a Tory party which he hates with almost unrivalled venom. That really does seem unthinkable to me.

But what if Brown stepped down as leader? Sure, another leader might be more amenable to the idea of a LabCon pact – but they’d only be able to act on it after what promises to be a protracted and bloody leadership struggle. In the meantime, they could hardly put out feelers to the Tories, from fear of being labelled as the candidate who loves the Cameroons. And the Tories will have had plenty of time to arrange something with the ever more friendly Lib Dems.

Which is to say: don’t bet on a Labour and Tory coalition this year. But you weren’t going to, were you? Good.