No gold at the end of the rainbow

The election showed that Britain is a progressive country but two significant interventions today make a Rainbow Coalition both unworkable and undesirable.

The election showed that Britain is a progressive country but two significant interventions today make a Rainbow Coalition both unworkable and undesirable.

First, Douglas Alexander said that Labour could not work with the SNP because of “fundamental” policy differences. Without SNP support, a rainbow coalition would have just 323 seats – the absolute minimum – unless they relied on the support of the DUP. As Iain Dale highlights, it would be inconceivable for the Labour party to go into formal coalition with homophobes such as Ian Paisley Jnr.

Second, Jon Cruddas has wisely demanded a process for consultation with the broad Labour party. This would be an similar process to the Lib Dems’ “triple lock” – but negotiators should be clear that there is not yet support within the parliamentary Labour party and it looks increasingly unlikely that this support will be forthcoming.

There are also some practical objections that are well worth considering. The first, pointed out by Liberal Conspiracy’s Don Paskini, is that:

“The Labour MPs in the last parliament were the most rebellious ever. How can a coalition which depends on Jeremy Corbyn, Frank Field, Tom Harris and John Hemming all voting the same way ever get any legislation passed?”

And as highlighted by Rory Cellan-Jones on BBC, Lib Dem blogger and Left Foot Forward contributor, Mark Thompson has come out in support of a Lib-Con deal. He points out:

“Gordon Brown has promised instant legislation to bring in AV for the Commons and a referendum on something more proportional … It would only take a few Labour MPs to vote against this for it to fall. And having conversed with some Labour backbench MPs I am convinced that there would be enough for this to happen. So what Brown is promising simply cannot be delivered.”

There can be little doubt that the Liberal Democrats are between a rock and a hard place. The collective failure of progressive parties to win an additional 20 seats – which would have provided a parliamentary buffer – has scuppered their preferred option of a Lab-Lib coalition with a new Labour leader. But the Lib Dems must now hold firm and not sacrifice principle for power by getting into bed with the Conservatives. The only progressive route ahead is a Tory minority government with case-by-case “confidence and supply” from the Liberal Democrats followed by a Lib-Lab electoral pact at the next election.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

48 Responses to “No gold at the end of the rainbow”

  1. dan phillips

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  2. Kevin Arscott

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  3. Will Straw

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow: < Clegg has to decide 'supply & confidence' or formal coalition

  4. Kathryn Cann

    RT @uponnothing: RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  5. Danny Carrington

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow

  6. Gregg Smith

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow

  7. sarah, portsmouth

    RT @guidofawkes: The game is up, Will Straw cheerleader for the Progressive Coalition realises it is more likely a Change Coalition

  8. Amanda Kate Powell

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  9. Lynn Jackson

    RT @leftfootfwd No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  10. Jon Sharman

    RT [email protected] No gold at the end of the rainbow: << read this – tis well good. I agree w/ the conclusion #ukelection

  11. gemma tumelty

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  12. John

    A Tory minority Government with Lib Dem support followed by both parties being largely wiped out by a Labour landslide at the next election sounds quite progressive enough to me, thanks.

  13. Rupert Read

    If you are right, then this is a failure of ambition.

    But if it happens, your pact idea is intriguing – BUT how could there be such a pact, with the Party that has just propped up the Tories?!! So it is in effect quite impossible

    So I don’t see that you offer us any hope (apart from what Elliepant has rightly called the scorched earth option). The only hope is the rainbow option.

    [Of course, there is one more possibility that hasn’t yet been explored – the grand coalition of ‘left’ and ‘right’, as in Germany. After all, neoliberal New Labour actually do have a great deal in common with the Conservatives…]

  14. Ali Esbati

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  15. D-Notice

    According to the Guardian, only 320 seats are needed

    This equates to Labour + Lib Dem + both parties’ N Ireland variants (SDLP and Alliance) + AN Other.

  16. Guido Fawkes

    The game is up Will Straw cheerleader for the Progress Coalition realises it is more likely a Change Coalition

  17. Guido Fawkes

    The game is up, Will Straw cheerleader for the Progressive Coalition realises it is more likely a Change Coalition

  18. Sunder Katwala


    The broad legitimacy argument is the important one. It would be interesting to have more evidence on public attitudes to this. The Tory party and press keep telling us what public opinion is, and keep trying to construct it, but have a less sure touch than they think.

    * The SNP point doesn’t matter so much, certainly in terms of confidence. The SNP can not vote out a progressive coalition in Westminster, and then fight the Scottish elections next Spring.

    * The Labour PLP argument is important. However, I can not see how the LibDems could legitimately ask, or Labour could legitimately offer, an electoral reform Bill on AV where there would be no referendum. Given the Labour manifesto commitment, that would generate principled refuseniks, and I doubt LibDem supporters and members would think it legitimate. Offering AV and/or multi-option PR referendums is a good thing which could get through as a mtter of confidence. We ought to offer PR for English local government too. And I would have thought Labour opinion ought to be able to coalesce around a citizens convention on constitution and electoral reform, with a commitment to a referendum on the outcome, which is often the LibDems’ first preference.

    PS: There are news reports that our Justice Secretary Jack Straw opposes such a coalition. I was therefore hoping you would back it, and could be quickly ennobled as Lord Straw of the blogosphere, to take on the constitutional affairs brief.

  19. Martin Coxall

    RT @guidofawkes: Will Straw cheerleader for the Progressive Coalition realises it is more likely a Change Coalition

  20. Michael Riccardi

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  21. cc_star

    Labour Ministers not just MPs speaking out against LabLib aswell as Labour blog leftfootforward dead in the water now?

  22. Richard Blogger

    A Lib-Con deal will be the death of the LibDem party. I am amazed that a LibDem could countenance it. However, the pledge on legislation on AV is just a bargaining ploy. The real prize is a referendum on STV, Labour is willing but it is unlikely that the Tories will go that far. The LibDems should push Labour for an early (ie this year) referendum on STV, Labour will agree and then we let the people decide.

  23. Darren Lee

    RT @leftfootfwd: No gold at the end of the rainbow:

  24. Shamik Das

    @D-Notice, the way I’ve calculated it – and I hope the diagram explains – is that, at present, to pass the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday May 25th the Prime Minister needs the support of 322 MPs:

    Labour (258) + Lib Dem (57) + Alliance Party (sister party of the Lib Dems, 1) + SDLP (sister party of Labour, 3) + Green Party (1) + Plaid Cymru (3) + SNP (6) = 329

    Against: Conservative (306) + DUP (8) = 314

    There are 5 Sinn Fein MPs (who never vote) and the Speaker, whose casting vote would go with the government.

    The election for the 650th MP in Thirsk and Malton will not take place till May 27th; it his highly likely it will be won by the Tories.

  25. libertarian

    I really can’t see what is “progressive” about the majority of workers working for the state. That sounds very 19th/20th century marxist so really the left alliance should really bill itself as conservative traditionalists

  26. Billy Blofeld


    Well done – I respect you for posting this. Common sense has prevailed over tribal stupidity.

  27. Anon E Mouse

    Will – I agree with a lot of this article.

    It seems to me that Labour and the Lib-Dems make more natural partners but only in theory when one considers Labour’s appalling record on say climate change where they say one thing and do another.

    If Labour force another unelected PM on the people (Remember Blair promised a “Full Third Term” so he threw out party politics in the 2005 election) they will pay for it at the next election.

    John Reid, amongst others, is right to say it will be the MAD of Labour if they do go into coalition with the Lib-Dems and this ragtag bunch of dopey no hopers like the SNP or Caroline Lucas.

    The fact is Cameron won the election and Brown lost it and he should go. If this is what happens with the horse trading of PR then I say put it to the people because your precious Labour Party will be crucified and the immature Lib-Dems won’t be far behind.

    The British people do not like being treated like fools by their leaders…

  28. Louis Althuser

    Labour should cut Clegg’s legs from under him now

    The ideal scenario is a Tory minority and another election in short order

    The Lib Dems have publicly proved themselves to be utterly untrustworthy and they will be destroyed in the next election if held under FPTP – that way Labour will have a new leader and the chance of a legitimate overall majority in a straight fight between blue and red

    The public have seen that no good comes from voting UKIP, BNP or Lib Dem and Labour needs to take advantage of that – but it cannot do so if imprisoned in a Lib/Lab coalition

    This dance of the seven veils with Clegg is madness and it should stop now

  29. Tim Parkin

    Most sensible commentary on progressive political strategy so far –

  30. D-Notice

    @ Shamik Das

    There’s also the 1 Independant MP from N Ireland, Sylvia Hermon.

    Does anyone know how she would vote?

  31. Rhondda T.

    Stop calling yourselves ‘progressive’. You can’t imagine how annoying that is to anyone with a decent command of the English language and an IQ much above 75. I’d have no objection to ‘regressive’, if you absolutely MUST have a meaningless new word to play with.

  32. Billy Blofeld


    Alongside “Progressive” other irritants from a similar mould are:

    1. “Rainbow Coalition” – I’d settle for “Frankenstein Coalition”

    2. “The Robin Hood Tax” – I’d settle for “The Sheriff of Nottingham levy”

  33. Labour rebels mobilise against Lib Dem deal | We-found-it

    […] arguing that the prizewinning outcome for progressives would be a Conservative eld government. He explains his rational here, but to wager his discussion in flooded you also requirement to feature this locate he wrote this […]

  34. I Young

    I’m starting to warm to the Lab-Lib Dem coalition deal for the following reasons: Whoever becomes PM and government will act in an uncontroversial, safe and statesman like manner until the next election. Whoever is in government is likely to be accepted by the public as looking prime ministerial and it is highly probable they will win the next election.
    A new Labour leader/PM should announce a November election (which climatically favours Labour) to gain a mandate which could be fought on a Lab-Lib coalition basis in order to avoid any post election ambiguity. This pact should feature either Labour or Lib Dem candidates standing down in up to three dozen constituencies.
    The result would be a resounding anti-Tory mandate and the back of the Conservative Party for a generation.

  35. Peter Hall

    Lib-Lab minority… the swan-song of New Labour

  36. Peter Hall

    Laura Kuenssberg has put out on Twitter: No 10 sources recognise talks with the libs and labour are over and working out how to declare their side of the negotiation is at an end.

    The swan is about its song..

  37. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Already the Inheritance Tax is dumped, told you – Cameron has made the whole Labour Party look like a bunch of irrelevant chumps.

    Well done all those on this blog who supported Brown, Campbell, Byrne, Whelan, Draper, Cooper, Balls, Hain, Mandelson, McNaulty and any other political bullies who have made the Labour Party practically unelectable.

    Roll on the day that honesty and decency once again become part of the Labour Party ethos and regarding Gordon Brown – good riddance to bad rubbish. Great day for democracy…

  38. Confused of Croydon

    The attitude of certain Labour MPs has surprised me. I thought they’s have enough desire for power (and to keep the Tories out) to do a deal with the Lib Dems, but it seems that tribalism has prevailed. Probably all for the best, as a “traffic” light Government wouldn’t have lasted beyond the first difficult decision, but odd nevertheless.

  39. James Emery

    No gold at the end of the rainbow | Left Foot Forward

  40. Mark Lightwood

    Will, your dad helped to destroy even the remotest chance of a Progressive Alliance. Thanks to him, and to you.

  41. Aurora

    RT @makethemlisten: RT [email protected] No gold at the end of the rainbow: << read this – tis well good. I agree w/ the conclusion #ukelection

  42. britbox

    Progressive alliance? Even the mention of this as being some sort of legitimate body is an absolute joke. Talk about clutching at straws to engineer an election. People like Hain, Mandelson, Campbell etc… should honestly be ashamed of themselves. Nobody voted for a “Progressive” party or movement because frankly there isn’t one. We have individual parties with policies and the electorate vote accordingly.

    Credit to Kate Hoey, John Reid and a few others for showing some integrity.

  43. David Cameron is new prime minister | England News

    […] is now arguing that the best outcome for progressives would be a Conservative minority government. He explains his reasoning here, but to understand his argument in full you also need to read this post he wrote this morning. […]

  44. blogs of the world

    The election showed that Britain is a progressive country but two significant intervention… #forward

  45. Is Scotland Cameron’s next constitutional headache? | Left Foot Forward

    […] lining up to give the Conservative/Lib Dem coalition a headache. As it became clear the so-called rainbow coalition was not going to work, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson, was making his position […]

  46. photo ex machina

    It’s in Labour’s best interests to go away and work out what they actually stand for other than opportunism and incompetence.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.