Over the next few years both Gordon Brown and David Cameron will both have to judiciously balance the need to reduce the LibDem tally of seats without creating an enemy of the new LibDem leader in the process.
David Cameron has already made his pitch to the LibDem mindset when he stressed the following areas of Tory-LibDem overlap…
- Opposition to Punch & Judy politics;
- Commitment to Kyoto – there is already a LibCon pact on global warming;
- Shared belief in decentralisation;
- Opposition to Tony Blair on ID cards and extension of detention without trial.
Will this be enough to overturn the long-held LibDem bias to the left? Gordon Brown certainly hopes not. He’s promising constitutional changes likely to appeal to the LibDems. He may also be closer to the LibDems on Iraq and tax policy.
If Gordon Brown were to lose Labour’s majority – and David Cameron was to make big gains – it would be difficult for the LibDems to prop up a rejected Labour administration.
Whatever he chooses Sir Ming might face internal opposition. The likes of Simon Hughes and Phil Willis will resist any deal with the Tories. David Laws and Nick Clegg would probably find co-operation with Gordon Brown difficult to swallow. There might be swirl of backroom deals and defections in the aftermath of a hung parliament.
Perhaps I’m being too high-minded? It may all come down to who offers Ming’s team the biggest jobs…