There’s a very interesting post on Labour Uncut today, from Tom Watson. Essentially Tom is repeating gossip from a senior Tory that they might consider breaking the coalition and going for an early election in May.
These ideas aren’t plucked from the ether, and Tom has clearly been given this line by someone, but ideas like this don’t always get floated because they will happen.
Sometimes they are floated because people want to see what the reaction to the idea would be before deciding whether or not to implement it. A negative response means the idea will quietly be dropped while it remains unattributable gossip, a positive response might elicit a stronger action.
On the other hand – and for me the most likely scenario – the idea is being floated not to test its popularity, but to remind some people that it is a possibility.
The possibility of the Tories breaking the coalition will terrify the Lib Dems, putting them firmly back in their boxes, and (partly) assuage the Tory right, who will be pleased to know this option is being considered. If we let it, it could also wrong foot Labour who are (rightly as I have said) taking their time to renew and revise our policies.
Cameron can’t really want an election now, as the electorate would punish him for turning on his own five years built to last rhetoric, and Osborne would be furious if Labour got a chance to get their hands on the instruments of power before the cuts had a chance to be fully embedded and the state shrunk.
Ironically, I’m willing to believe there is a strong possibility that the possibility of the coalition being broken is being floated in order to remind MPs on both sides what they get from it, and to strengthen it through its current wobble.