Since the general election, which was very obviously a disaster in some way or another for every party bar the SNP and the Tories, there has been a fair amount spoken by some on the centre-left about a “merger” of some sort taking place between parties. In other words, here is a recognition of the fact that the continued factioning of the non-Tory elements in parliament will guarantee the Conservative Party a long spell in government, and a proposed solution to the problem.
There is a certain logic to all of this – until you start thinking about it in any sort of detail. Talking about things like electoral pacts, you can take the SNP and UKIP out of the equation right at the start. The SNP wouldn’t be interested, and doing any sort of deal with the Nats would be electorally suicidal for Labour in England. UKIP aren’t about to join anyone else’s party, particularly not Labour’s. So that leaves Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens.
Leaving aside the fact that most Labour activists and Lib Dem activists hate each other passionately post-Coalition, there is a reason that the three parties I mentioned above are three separate parties in the first place. Any sort of merger, even on a minor level of just not standing candidates in certain constituencies to help out “cousin” parties, would be virtually impossible. The Greens would want at least some of their ideas taken up by Labour in return for any deal – and given the Greens’ policies are toxic beyond belief for pretty much all of the people Labour need to get to vote for them in order to win again, that could never work.
The most psephologically feasible pact is a Labour-Lib Dem one; as Labour people finally discovered on May 7th, a collapse in Lib Dem seats mostly spells a Tory majority given they are constituencies in which Labour cannot win. Labour standing aside or even helping Lib Dems win in the southwest, while Lib Dems stood aside in the north of England and Scotland, could work as a means to winning seats.
Except of course, Labour would still need a charismatic, dynamic leader (which looks to be off the cards at the moment) and the Lib Dems would need a leader who could sway Tory-Lib swing voters to go back to the Lib Dems (Farron no means a certainty to be able to do this – besides, a pact with Labour would blow this out of the water almost certainly anyhow).
And that’s before you get into the ideological problems inherent in any such a deal. Labour are collectivists and Lib Dems are individualists. That’s not a minor policy point to be squabbled over – those are just not two world views that sit comfortably together at all.
Whether anyone likes it or not, the Tories are probably going to be in power until either the Labour Party gets a grip on itself as it did in the 90s, or the Labour Party blows its brains out by electing Corbyn as leader (which some have speculated would be an electoral set back, but by no means a fatal one, citing Foot and his 209 seats in 1983 – I don’t think even that could be taken for granted this time round), and something, who knows what, emerges from the ashes in its place. At that point, perhaps deals could be made since you’re talking about what amounts to a whole new party. But I think that’s what it would take.