I was having an interesting discussion with a colleague this morning about what Lib Dem MPs who didn’t like the coalition’s actions could and would do. I said that it was highly improbably that this (or any) government would go a full term without at least one ministerial resignation and that that was probably even more likely under coalition. While ministerial resignations are dramatic and aid a narrative of splits, in the end they don’t really amount to much unless a Government is a lot closer to a knife edge than this one is. Some junior Lib Dem stepping down from being minister for paperclips will occupy Twitter, the blogs (this one included I’m sure) and the press, but won’t make an awful lot of difference to the Parliamentary mathematics.
The only thing that would really change parliamentary mathematics would be defections.
Now as is utterly clear, the Lib Dems hate Labour. Lib Dem blogs are full of this bile and since going into coalition with the Tories, it’s all spewed endlessly at us. And let’s be fair – we hate them right back. We hate them for splitting the left making it so easy for the Tories to rule without a majority and the coalition has hardly dulled that feeling. Both sets of activists are as tribal and angry as each other and this is not being made better by the ConDem coalition.
So I really can’t see a Lib Dem defecting to the Labour Party in this parliament. But I can see a Lib Dem feeling so far removed from their party that they didn’t see a place for them in it anymore. This happens – rarely but it does happen. If it did, I think that the shock of leaving their own tribe would probably be quite enough and defecting to Labour probably more than they could take. But with Caroline Lucas now firmly ensconced in Parliament, there is another alternative which would work pretty well for non-Orange Book Lib Dems.
I’m not willing to put any money on it (unlike AV failing, which following today’s story in the Independent I have now put £20 on) but I don’t think it could be dismissed out of hand that by the end of this Parliament, we could see at least two Green MPs fighting for reelection.