By Olivia Jones
Everybody knows that politics in the UK can be a heated affair. Under Proportional Representation we have a system where far more votes are counted, the Government is far more representative of us and our ideologies, and the Two-Party system has far less power which reduces governmental corruption. But it also means that parties are forced to work together if they want to get anything done, let alone get into power. And in the past week, tensions between parties have become particularly heated.
As you probably know, the Labour Party, LPUK, and DRF have pushed for a Vote of No Confidence in the British Government based on a couple of issues. Namely; that the Foreign Minister misled the House on talks with Iran, that the Transport Secretary’s comments about Senedd and MQ’s portray a disregard for democracy, that the Scottish Secretary refused to answer a Private Notice Question and is failing at his duties, and that the Welsh Secretary ignored five questions asked of him which also means he’s failing his duties. There are others, and if you want to hear about all of them then the debate on the VoNC can be found on Parliament TV. These parties involved in it, while vastly different in ideology, have come together based on a desire to get the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties out of government.
Whatever you think of their reasons and whether the motion is justified shouldn’t be the thing to be thinking about though. The three Opposition parties to initiate the vote have the numbers to beat the Government; with the swing party, TPM, being avidly anti-Government at the best of times let alone when a right-wing government is in power. So the question isn’t ‘will it pass’, it most likely will. The question on everybody’s minds right now should be… what’s next?
The Tories and LibDems cannot enter government together again. At least half the parties in government cannot re-enter it until an election. That leaves the two parties to look for friends that can get them into Government without the other. Let’s review their options, the options that will dictate our next Prime Minister and their Cabinet:
- Conservative - Libertarian Government (‘Blurple’)
This government seems like the likeliest one going forward at a glance, but the LPUK and Conservatives aren’t on the best of terms and haven’t been for some time. Their last government was rife with disagreements; and given it was the Libertarian Party leader that initiated the VoNC, coming to an agreement or even having civil negotiations about one would be an uphill battle that the Tory Party may not even want to bother with.
Coming to an agreement will be difficult for the two parties, due to their more recent history and their personal grudge towards one another. Devolved factions of the LPUK have united with other parties against the Tories devolved counterparts in the past, and currently have in the Welsh ‘Senedd’ assembly. This rift between the two right-wing parties was particularly obvious when the leader of the Libertarian Party said in the very first speech of the VoNC debate:
“This government is inept, it is incompetent, and is treating our institutions and democracy with contempt, I thank the (Official) Opposition for uniting to kick out this shambolic Tory government and I hope the House makes the right call.”
~ Friedmanite19, LPUK
There’s also a small chance, depending on who leads the Tories at this time, that the NUP may be invited to the ‘Blurple’ Coalition. These three parties together, while already established to be an extremely unstable combination, have the advantage of being the only Coalition that would both have the closest thing to ‘cohesion’ on policy issues while also having something rare in recent years at the same time; a majority in the House. And a healthy two-seat majority at that, 52 seats total.
There would be a lot of issues to sort out, but a Conservative-Libertarian coalition, even without the NUP, would only be a minority by one seat and would be decidedly stronger than the current government by numbers. This would mean they would have to give fewer concessions to the left, and would be less vulnerable to another VoNC. But they would be weakened by the personal grudges that burn hot between various members of the two parties.
Of the current Tory Leadership hopefuls, there is a clear divide between them over whether they want to work with the LPUK to stay in government, or would rather serve in Opposition than do so. While it has many benefits, this Coalition (if it is formed) has a very real risk of damaging the Tories even more than the VoNC will already have done - and may damage the LPUK if the two parties cannot manage their deep-rooted differences. But could these parties working together heal some burnt bridges and actually increase the Tories influence in the House?
- Labour - Liberal Democrat - DRF Government (‘Fire Engine?’)
Labour and the Liberal Democrats have a sometimes turbulent relationship in politics, which is interesting because the LibDems are the closest thing to a ‘likely Coalition partner’ that Labour have that commands a large share of the seats in Parliament. While Labour is an objectively left-wing party and not a liberal one, the Liberal Democrats have a number of left-leaning members and have worked with Labour before to varying degrees of success. The Democratic Reformist Front is also interesting, due to the fact it can be a bit of an ideological melting pot, with many different types of politicians united around the singular issue of republicanism.
A government of Labour and the Lib Dems alone would the same number of seats as the Conservative party has on its own, a heavy minority for a government. But if these two parties can work together, setting aside their differences, and bring the Democratic Reformist Front onboard then they will have nearly as many seats as the current government (42 to the current government’s 44) and would be able to sit quite comfortably on the government benches.
While these three parties have a lot of tension, they have a few uniting issues. Labour and the DRF both want to get the Tories out of power, all three parties contain left-leaning or left-wing members, and most of the debate around the VoNC has barely touched on if not even involved praise for the LibDems ‘moderating influence’ in the current government. The current Shadow Chancellor even said in his speech to the house:
“To the Liberal Democrats. I don’t blame you. As far as I can tell you have held yourselves up with great conduct, and have done your best to translate progressive policy into a change oriented government based on a mixed GE result for progressive parties you might otherwise align with.”
~ jgm0228, Labour Party
There’s also a slim chance the People's Movement would work alongside this Coalition in a Confidence and Supply agreement, though both the LibDem party and People's Movement would refuse entering into a proper Coalition together. While this doesn’t give the government more seats because of the way C&S works, it gets them only three seats off of a working majority in terms of votes and would result in this Government being more able to pass legislation and being more stable by leagues than the current one.
The issue is that because of the ideological differences in such a Coalition, much of this legislation wouldn’t be quite where each party would want it to be. They’d have to make concessions, to work together. Then again, one could argue that this would strengthen the government - and encourage them to reach across the aisle on issues.
This is currently being placed as the most likely government to come out of this situation, and it will be down to the party leaders to make sure it works. It would benefit, in particular, the Labour and LibDem parties if it was pulled off - helping Labour sustain their rise in the polls, and saving the LibDems from the polling plummet that being involved in a failed government can begin. But if the party leaders involved cannot set differences aside, this government would likely end in disaster for all parties involved. The LibDems have managed to avoid a lot of the criticism the Government as a whole is getting, could time in Government without the Tories actually benefit them?
- Labour - LPUK - Liberal Democrat (‘Sunset?’)
This is a possibility, but it would be incredibly ill advised for any of these parties. For anyone who remembers ‘Sunrise’ this may give them flashbacks. The Labour and LPUK parties have managed to put their differences aside for the VoNC, but their differences are not to be ignored and if in government it would almost certainly drive a wedge between them that would certainly make it difficult to get anything done, if not tear the government apart.
As for the Liberal Democrats, there would be a slim chance that they would agree to such a coalition, and it would get the government one seat away from a majority (which would mean a C&S agreement with TPM or DRF would give the government a working majority in votes) - but on top of the slim chance that the Right-Libertarian and Dem-Soc parties would dare go into government together, bringing a Liberal party into the mix that LPUK has already pissed off this week means I wouldn’t bet on the chances of this Coalition option happening. A member of the Liberal Democrat party said in the recent VoNC debate:
“After seeing (LPUK/Labour/DRF)’s actions here I no longer have any interest in working with scheming opportunists who would destroy strength and stability at a slight chance to enter power. This is not the type of behaviour that should be rewarded and is a shameful display from any political party. The LPUK's actions in spearheading this proposal have vindicated my decision to leave that party, which masquerades as being for liberty when it is really for chaos."
~ realchaw, Liberal Democrat
While this would be an impressive number of seats for a government, the same number as the first option for a ‘Blurple’ Coalition; most people would point out that this would be an incredibly unstable model and, just like the ‘Sunrise’ coalition that many people compare it to, would probably fall apart very quickly - damaging all three parties. Interestingly though, this is the only Coalition in which Labour would not necessarily need the Liberal Democrats to get a larger number of seats than the current government; as with the DRF joining instead of the LibDems, this Coalition would be only three seats from a majority. Could continued co-operation between parties at opposite ends of the political spectrum actually result in a stable government?
- Labour - Conservative Coalition (‘GroKo’)
This one is a bit of a meme in party circles, but the nation of Germany currently has a government with the mainstream parties on the left, centre, and right in a Grosse Koalition (Grand Coalition) to keep the ‘radical’ parties out. This government would command a massive majority, and would be the most powerful in terms of seats perhaps in our entire post-Proportional-Representation history. It would also fall apart almost instantly because of the deep rooted ideological differences between the parties on practically every issue that has only been deepened by this VoNC. Food for thought, though.
- Small Parties Unite? (‘Keep The Big Guys Out’)
An almost impossible government, this one’s just for fun, Without Labour’s influence in mediating tensions between the Liberal Democrats and People’s Movement, they are unlikely to work together in any capacity. As for the NUP, the TPM will literally never work for them. But in some fantasy world where they did, this government would have slightly less seats than the current one. It would also look a bit like the non-binary pride flag given the party colours. So that’s a plus.
These governments are all of those possible with the current Parliament seating. And of them, some shape of the first two mentioned are very likely to be our next government - with the third being a possibility. We could see a stronger government than the current one come out of all this, or it could result in a messy shambles akin to the ‘Sunrise’ Coalition that still haunts multiple politicians and parties of the UK. The strength of this government could heavily affect the polling of the parties involved in it; and at a time where Labour is set to beat the Conservatives in the polls for the first time since Proportional Representation was introduced, the success of the next government is incredibly important no matter who it is.
If the next government does involve the Labour party, with its leader as the Prime Minister, then with a bit of hard work the Conservatives could find themself behind in the polls - robbed of their usual stable lead. If they fail to work with ideologically different parties and the Coalition fails, though, they could find themselves back where they started or even worse off.
In the same vein; if the Conservatives return to power with at least a much smaller minority than before, if not a majority, then they could recover their losses and re-assert themselves at the top of UK politics. However many of the prospective Tory Leaders recognise that this is an incredible risk and working with the LPUK again could only speed up their descent to second place; and are campaigning on letting the party sit in Opposition for a while and lick its wounds while trying to claw themselves back to the top from there.
Whatever happens, this VoNC is incredibly important and if whatever government comes out of it can solve the situation with Iran then it’s likely that we’ll see a Snap Election called. Until then, however, we’ll be stuck with the post-VoNC Coalition scraped together from the existing seats in the House of Commons.
Will they succeed and have their polls boosted before the next election, whenever it may be? Will they fail and fall apart like the current Government is likely to? Well, a lot can change in a week in politics.
Olivia Jones is a journalist based out of central Birmingham. She started out writing freelance for various outlets, before settling down with The Independent. Her main articles are part of a weekly series named A Week In Politics published every Friday.