I find it extraordinary that some people are proposing a grand coalition between the Labour and Conservative parties after the next General Election. As someone who has helped construct the Conservative Manifesto, there is no way I could reach agreement with Labour on a common government after May 7th. Conservatives want a renegotiation with the EU and an In/Out referendum. Labour opposes that implacably. Conservatives want English votes for English issues. Labour opposes that and refuses to recognise the case for England. Conservatives want tax cuts, Labour wants to impose extra taxes. Conservatives wish to remove the deficit next Parliament. Labour thinks that is going too far.
Those who argue for a grand coalition are being premature and pessimistic about their party’s chances of winning. Why not fight out the election first, with the intention of winning outright? More importantly, they are recommending something that would do great future damage. Far from saving the union and providing wise government, a grand coalition would undermine the principles and credibility of both parties and make it far more difficult for either to win outright the following election. Whilst in a close race it makes sense to help define each party by asking with whom among the minor parties they could do business, it makes no sense for the two main parties summing up the main differences in the election to stifle that choice by saying they could combine.
On the continent, where grand coalitions or collaborative actions between centre right and centre left have been used to keep the Euro and its policies alive, they have usually resulted in grave further electoral damage to the parties concerned. In Greece the centre right and centre left invented the idea of giving 50 extra seats to the party with most votes as a way as they saw it of keeping in business the alternation of the centre right and centre left in government. Instead they gifted the latest election to Syriza. In Spain and in Italy the two main traditional parties are struggling to command just 50% of the vote between them, because electors know that whatever they promise the cruel logic of the Euro will dictate many of their policies once in office.
Going into grand coalitions compromises principles, results in torn up election promises, and above all stifles electoral choice. If both main parties in a country work together they do indeed both become the same with respect to government policy. That impedes true democracy, or stimulates new parties to arrive and overturn them. The differences between Labour and Conservatives in today’s UK are large and important. They do not allow forming a common government in 9 weeks time.