By the next general election, we will have experienced nine years of Conservative government, and fourteen if you include the coalition. This is long enough for opposition parties to start looking at all their options. One of these is to consider aligning themselves with other parties to form a potential ‘Rainbow Alliance’. But is it as simple as my enemy’s enemy is my friend, or does politics get in the way.
The Labour Party would seem to have very little gain from an alliance. They are the obvious next choice to form any new government, so an alliance that stops them contesting every seat could potentially stop them increasing their MPs. But even with a new leader, their policies are still entrenched in the socialist left and this factor could limit their appeal to Conservative voters. And with Scotland firmly in the hands of the SNP, Labour ought to be willing to work with parties who can win in those Conservative heartlands.
The SNP and Plaid Cymru will never form their own governments in Westminster, we all know that. Their primary purpose is to give a voice to their nationalist agenda, which would only be fulfilled through a coalition or agreement with another party. But although Labour and the Lib Dems are in favour of devolution, neither want the Union to brake. Therefore, the only party that actually benefits from SNP and Plaid Cymru success are the Conservatives.
The Green Party should be truly proud of their achievements, as no party has done more to put their agenda into the manifestos of the other political parties then the Greens. But like the SNP and Plaid Cymru, they have no chance of forming a government alone, and fielding nearly 500 candidates with a limited membership base puts a huge financial burden on the party. A formal alliance therefore, would seem to be the best way to implement their policies nationally.
I would argue any formal national alliance is unworkable, but informal local and national agreements would seem possible. The biggest hurdle however, isn’t the politicians.
Politicians understand democracy works through cooperation and you only have to see how many cross-party bills go through parliament to appreciate this. The biggest problem will be with the local political activists around the country. It’s been all too easy to take pot-shots at other parties over the years, and this has created an atmosphere where any cooperation between other local parties is impossible. Yet it’s here where the Rainbow Alliance needs to be built, with each of us individually laying its foundations.
Stuart is a columnist for Liberal Base and Tweets @stueybourne.