GE 2017 #7: The Scottish Conservatives’ Shameless Campaign

The Scottish Conservatives have made their pitch to voters that they will oppose an IndyRef#2 and fight for the Union. That’s pretty jaw-dropping given that it is the Conservatives who have been (and who, with their Hard Brexit, probably still are) the greatest threat to the Union.

Alex Salmond had said that IndyRef#1 would settle the issue of independence for a generation. And so it might well have done, had the political settlement in the UK not have changed out of all recognition as a result of Brexit. Now the SNP can credibly argue that the Scottish people are facing a future significantly different from the possible futures they reasonably had in mind at the time of IndyRef#1. Further, the SNP makes the unanswerable point that Scotland is being dragged out of the EU contrary to the wishes of the majority of (voting) Scots. Once more the question of independence dominates Scottish politics (and should dominate UK politics). Again, the Union is seriously threatened.

And, of course, it is the Conservatives that are to blame for all this. We needn’t have had an EU referendum; it was, after all, held by David Cameron for reasons of internal Conservative party management and for a perceived political advantage at the 2015 general election. Further, the threat to the Union might have been avoided by organising the EU referendum so that Brexit would only have proceeded if each country in the UK voted in favour. That idea was rejected by the David Cameron. And then there were bungled negotiations in Europe and an inept Remain campaign. The charges against the Conservatives are both grave and legion. It is a bitter irony that the Conservative and Unionist Party has brought the UK to the brink of disintegration.

There is something shameless and offensive in the Scottish Conservatives seeking to obtain political advantage from a parlous state of affairs that their party created. But I suppose we are where we are. The Conservatives may have put the Union at risk but conceivably the Conservatives might still be the best party to save the Union. Clearly, the only thing that would pretty much take independence and an IndyRef#2 off the agenda would be a decision to stay in the EU after all. That would probably require an EURef#2. The Liberal Democrats support a second referendum when the terms of departure from the EU become clear. The SNP’s position is unclear. Labour and Conservative currently reject the idea of a second EU Ref. There are strong arguments for a second referendum: no one has voted for any particular Brexit. Pressure for a further referendum may build as the demerits of Brexit become clear. Labour MPs might be swayed; but Conservatives probably won’t. More Conservative MPs will make EURef#2 less likely, will make Brexit all the more certain and independence more likely. Let’s assume, though, that Brexit will happen come what may. When it does, the important point is that the harder the Brexit, the stronger the SNP’s argument for IndyRef#2 and for independence. If the UK stayed in the single market and the customs union, the SNP’s case would be significantly weakened. The critical question then is will additional Scottish Conservative MPs make a Hard Brexit more or less likely. And here we hit a large number of imponderables. Where do possible winning Scottish Tory candidates stand on Brexit, the single market and the Hard/Soft Brexit continuum? Does it make any difference? Would a Conservative majority in Westminster swollen with Scottish Conservatives encourage Mrs May towards the most destructive of Brexits or would it strengthen her hand to rein in her Hard Brexit colleagues (if that’s what she wants to do)? What, indeed, is Mrs May’s preferred outcome? Does she want to compromise with the EU to achieve a softer Brexit or is she content that her apparently uncompromising attitude towards the EU will lead to a rock-hard, car-crash, Brexit?

The problem for Scottish voters (and for that matter other UK voters) is that we just don’t know the answers to these questions and we are highly unlikely to find out before 8 June. The PM’s idea of an election campaign seems to be to avoid voters, shut down meaningful political debate as far as possible and communicate in trite and vacuous sound-bites. On Brexit negotiations, she won’t tell us what her goals are; we are simply to trust her; that “Brexit means Brexit” ought to be enough for us ingrates.

What we do know is that the PM is unreliable. She was against a third runway at Heathrow and then she wasn’t. She said she would not call a general election before 2020 but she did. She was pro-Remain but since becoming leader of the Conservative Party has ostensibly embraced a Hard no-deal-is-better-than-a bad-deal Brexit. But the Scottish Conservatives do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. We can’t be certain but more Scottish Conservative MPs probably increases the chances of a harder Brexit. The better bet for Unionists is to vote to try to maximise the number of non-Conservative Unionists, either Liberal Democrats or Labour. But what if you live in a SNP/Conservative marginal where a vote for Labour or Liberal would be a wasted vote? In those seats, it’s far from obvious that Unionists should vote for the Unionist candidate. On the one hand, the SNP will argue that each additional SNP MP strengthens the case for IndyRef#2 but, on the other, every non-Tory MP weakens Mrs May’s hand, strengthens parliamentary opposition against a Hard Brexit and makes a Hard Brexit less likely, undermining the case for reopening the independence question and for IndyRef#2.

But there is a further argument for voting for anyone other than the Conservatives. Political theorists often discuss the expressive value of a vote. Even if it make no difference to the outcome of an election (or, by extension, to wider outcomes in society), an election is an opportunity to express an opinion. In this election, the Conservative and Unionist Party deserves a collective raspberry from Unionists for having got us into the mess and for its casual disregard of the importance of the Union.

If you support the Union, the last party to vote for (and that includes the SNP in the available options!) is the Conservative Party.

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GE 2017 #3: The Conservatives Continue to Be the Main Threat to the Union

Last time out, at the 2015 general election, one of the main Tory lines of attack – an attack which pollsters and commentators thought was highly effective – was to argue that a hung parliament would mean a chaotic coalition of Labour and SNP.  It was argued that this would spark a constitutional crisis as the SNP would have a say on wholly English matters such as health and education.  Sir John Major opined that the SNP could hold a Labour government to ransom on a vote-by-vote basis.  He warned that the SNP represented a real and present danger to our future.

I bet he feels like an ass now.  As many of us argued in 2015 – and as has become painfully apparent over the last 2 years – the real threat to the Union in 2015 was a Conservative win not a Labour one.  It is the Conservatives who held an EU referendum for essentially self-serving party interests.  It is the Conservative leadership that must take the overriding blame for losing that referendum.  It is Brexit that has given the SNP the basis to argue that circumstances have so materially changed since the 2014 independence referendum, a referendum which was supposed to settle matters for a generation, that a new referendum is necessary.  It is Mrs May’s preferred Hard Brexit that is yet more grist to the SNP mill.

Shamelessly, the Conservatives have returned to the coalition-of-chaos motif.  I guess as it worked well for them last time, it is too tempting to pass up this time.  But let’s be clear:  Brexit and particularly a Hard Brexit make Scottish secession more likely – and by extension a Tory government remains the greatest risk to the Union.

As a former leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party, I trust Sir John sees the bitter irony.

EU Referendum #1: a Fortnight to Save the Union? [That’s the UK not the EU!]

One thing all sides seem to agree on is that there is a lot at stake on 23 June.  What has not been highlighted is that the UK itself is at stake.  The referendum has created an existential threat to the nation.  If we vote leave, there is a good possibility that the SNP will achieve its dream of an independent Scotland.  Curiously, the EU Referendum is a belated chance for the rest of the UK to vote in a referendum on Scottish independence.  The rest of us (that is those Britons who don’t live in Scotland) can if we wish use our vote to express our view as to whether Scotland should be an independent country.

My argument is this:  (1) even if the UK as a whole votes to leave, Scotland will have voted to remain in the EU;  (2) in the event of a vote to leave, the SNP will probably insist upon another independence referendum;  (3) there is good chance of a further independence referendum;  (4) there is a probably a better than even chance that the outcome of a second independence referendum would be a vote in favour of secession;  (5) the break up of the UK would be a bad thing.

I accept that, even if this argument is made out, it is not determinative of the correct way to vote.  Conceivably, it would still be right to run the risk of the break up of the Union; conceivably, gains from leaving the EU outweigh the break up of the UK:  better a rump-UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) out of the EU with an independent Scotland (quite possibly re-negotiating entry to the EU) than a UK remaining in the EU.

Be that as it may, the possible break up of the UK (if my argument is right) is something that ought to go into the mix when voters decide whether it is morally better to vote Remain or Leave.

As for limb (5) of my argument, there is not space here to explore that assertion.  Given space, I would argue that nationalism is a morally dubious political theory.  I would argue that one can and should protect and celebrate cultural identity and cultural distinctives without needing to assert political independence.  [I accept that asserting political independence may, on occasion, be an appropriate response to national oppression but are Scots really an oppressed minority?]  I would argue that the UK is better together and that the break up of the UK would embolden more dubious nationalisms across Europe and the rest of the world.  [For further comment see my blogs on the Scottish independence referendum.]

So to the rest of my argument.  Realistically, point (1) is beyond dispute.  Pollsters and commentators are united in concluding that voters living in Scotland will vote to remain in the EU.  There has not been a single poll north of the border indicating that a majority of voters in Scotland would vote to leave the EU;  rather polls consistently show around a 2:1 majority for remaining in the EU.

As for (2), Nicola Sturgeon has said, on record, that if the UK voted to leave the EU, a second independence referendum “would be the demand of the Scottish people”.  She has also said that she will “obviously” want to look at independence again following an EU leave vote in order to protect Scotland’s membership of the EU.  It is likely that the SNP would not demand a second independence vote in the event of a leave vote.  They will if they are confident they will win it.

Points (3) and (4) are not quite so easy to make out.  As for (3), a second independence referendum can only be held with the consent of the UK government and UK parliament.  For current purposes, a judgment has to made as to whether the UK government and UK parliament could withstand the demands of the SNP for a new referendum.  I think it doubtful.  Ms Sturgeon would have a very strong hand.  She would have the “D” word in her armoury.  She would point to the injustice of Scotland being removed from the EU in the face of the desire of the overwhelming majority of people living in Scotland.  She would point out that the circumstances after a leave vote were quite different to the circumstances in 2014 and that a new vote was necessary.  It is not hard to imagine the leaders of the other political parties in Scotland buckling.  [Kezia Dugdale, the leader of Scottish Labour, has made inconsistent remarks about her attitude to independence if there was a Brexit vote.]  The UK government would then be faced with an invidious choice.  If it refused a referendum, there is every likelihood that the SNP’s support in Scotland would grow as it sought to foster and exploit a sense of Scottish resentment against “Westminster” and its undemocratic impositions.  If it refused a referendum, it is quite likely that support for independence would grow even further.  So while a second independence referendum is not inevitable, the chances of a new referendum are significant.

So what would the outcome of a referendum be?  Opinion polls since 2014 seem to indicate that there remains a slight Unionist majority.  Quite probably there has been little change in the 45/55 yes please/no thanks split since September 2014.  Would the UK leaving the EU significantly change things?  Is it more likely that yes-to-independence voters would switch to no thanks because of the attraction of being out of the EU or more likely that no voters would change to being pro-independence because of a desire to remain in the EU?  Almost certainly (given the large majority in Scotland for remaining in the EU), the move would be from no to yes, increasing the likelihood of a pro-independence vote.  It’s simply a matter of statistics.

I accept that it is by no means certain that there would be a second independence referendum or that the Yes campaign would win it.  But the chances of a second independence vote and that vote being in favour of independence are significant.  I do not see how anyone could reasonably argue otherwise.

This whole referendum campaign is about risk and likelihoods.  What is the likelihood of significant goods or ills arising from a vote to leave (or a vote to remain)?  But one thing is clear:  a proper consideration of the risks for and against leaving is incomplete until we factor in the significant risk that Brexit = the break up of the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

GE 2015: #16: Fixed-term Parliaments & West-Wing-Style Government

The introduction of fixed-term parliaments seemed to be a dull, albeit, necessary and appropriate change to the constitution.  Most commentators accepted that it was right to remove the incumbent government’s ability to choose the date of the next election, although they were probably sad to see the end of the will-they-or-won’t-they-call-an-early-election debate which always provided plenty of distraction and entertainment (and a large amount of copy) in the 4th and 5th years of a government.  What few saw coming were the radical implications of fixed-term parliaments in the event of certain kinds of minority government.

As has been widely discussed, a possible (and increasingly likely) outcome of the election is that, even though the Conservatives ended up with more MPs than Labour, they would lack coalition partners who would support any Conservative-led parliamentary programme.  The only viable government would be Labour-led with SNP sufferance.  What should we make of this prospect?  Is it the constitutional catastrophe that the Tory election machine would have us imagine?  Will the SNP tail be constantly wagging the dog of the UK government?  How do fixed-term parliaments affect any of this?

The first impact of the introduction of fixed-term parliaments is that such a minority government could be stable.  The best way to achieve this is for Mr Miliband to bring the Liberal Democrats back into government as Labour’s coalition partners.  With the passing of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, an election can only be held if a government loses a no-confidence vote or two-thirds of MPs [that is 434 MPs] endorse a motion for an early election.  Neither would be likely.  Of course, the arithmetic of the House of Commons (in the scenario posited) would be such that, theoretically, the SNP and Conservatives together could probably win a vote of no-confidence (perhaps with some further minor party support).  But, there are several reasons why the SNP would not go down that road.  The SNP has backed itself into something of a corner.

If there is a prospect that the Conservatives would win the subsequent election – the election after a no-confidence vote – the SNP would be going against its stated intention of keeping the Tories out of government.  That is not an easy sell.  If, on the other hand, it looked as if Labour would improve its position in a subsequent election, the SNP would risk the loss of its influence:  Labour may win a majority.  And almost certainly SNP jobs (i.e. MPs) would be on the line.  That always focuses the mind.  The 2015 general election may well represent the high water mark of SNP representation at Westminster.  So, it is hard to envisage circumstances where the SNP would wield the knife to bring down a Labour minority government.

It might be easier for the SNP to justify abstaining on a no-confidence vote and a Labour minority government would be vulnerable to that tactic.  But if Labour had brought the Liberals into government, together they would likely have sufficient votes to withstand a no-confidence motion on which the SNP abstained.

Crucially a fixed-term parliament with an entrenched minority government means that we would have a government that could lose votes in the House of Commons and that could fail to get some of its bills through the House but a government that would, nevertheless, not be threatened.  We would have a government with control over the executive but without control of the legislature.  What we would have ended up with is a de facto separation of powers.  Government would operate more like the West Wing than an archetypal UK government.  Legislation would be arrived at by a process of negotiation and issue-by-issue coalition building.

The Conservatives (and, unadvisedly, Nick Clegg) are suggesting that such a minority government would be held hostage by the SNP.  Theresa May has gone so far as to suggest that such a minority government would represent the worst constitutional crisis since the 1930s.  [Come on Ms May, is that all?  Surely it would at the very least represent the end of civilisation as we know it and possibly the end of all life on earth.]  But if the new coalition partners, Mr Miliband and the leader of the Liberal Democrats, were brave enough and clear-headed enough, they could make a minority coalition of the left work.  Indeed, they could revitalise the political life of this country and re-engage the electorate.

How so?  Surely the government would be constantly undermined by SNP politicking.

With justification, many believe that notwithstanding all their protestations to the contrary the SNP’s nationalist imperative would determine the SNP’s agenda and behaviour in the next parliament.  The SNP’s commitment to an independent Scotland and the internal culture of their organisation mean that, all other things being equal, they would always pursue a strategy to achieve independence at the earliest possible date, overriding all other considerations.  The quickest ways to a new, binding, Scottish independence referendum are either (i) to make the next parliament so unworkable that those both north and south of the border come to recognise independence as the only way forward (or, if nothing else, a blessed relief) or (ii) to bring down the government in the hope of a Conservative government committed to an EU-referendum that will necessarily alienate Scots and push Scottish independence back to the top of the agenda.  If the SNP is true to its raison d’etre it will pursue one or both of these strategies.

But the reasons that would make it almost impossible for the SNP to support a no-confidence motion also make it difficult to be a constantly negative and disruptive force in parliament, much as that might be their tactic of choice.  The SNP’s constituency is not as committed to independence as it is.  Many within their constituency will have voted SNP on the basis of what the SNP said:  that the SNP would be a constructive force, joining with those on the left to further a progressive agenda for the benefit of Scotland and of everyone across the UK.  So the SNP leadership can only be disruptive up to a point.  If their disruption becomes too blatant and too shameless, they will open themselves up to the charge of being wreckers and will risk alienating a significant amount of their support.  That they cannot afford to do.

All of this should be clear to an incoming Labour/Liberal government who could factor this into their modus operandi.  They must make a virtue out of a necessity.  They must state that they intend to bring as broad a group as possible behind a progressive but sensible agenda.    They must make a point of listening carefully to the MPs elected by the Scots, as they will all other representatives of the electorate.  They must move forward with devo-max, lancing a boil.  In essence, they must call the SNP’s bluff.  Because they will not command a majority in the House of Commons, they will need for build consensus across party lines.  They will even talk to the Conservatives to try to build a lasting consensus where possible on some of the long-term challenges facing Britain such as pension provision and social care.

Given that the executive would not control the legislature, it is likely that parliament would pass less legislation but what it passed would have been the subject of more detailed analysis and scrutiny.  The legislature would have more time to scrutinise the mountain of regulations made by Whitehall and EU legislation.

This can be a new sort of government that will proudly listen more and do less legislatively – a government that could be more engaged with the British people. No doubt Ed Miliband will do what is necessary to become Prime Minister but will he have the courage and strength of character to embrace a new politics?

GE 2015: #15: Tactical Voting & Scottish Conservatives

On the assumption that as a Scottish Conservative, you have been underwhelmed by Ms Davidson’s argument that tactical voting is wrong “in principle”, what’s to be done if you live in a constituency which is a two-way fight between Labour and SNP?

You can do nothing to boost the number of Conservative MPs.  Your constituency will send an anti-Tory MP to Westminster.  So, is it better to send an SNP MP or a Labour MP to London?  If it makes no difference, you might as well vote Conservative;  but, perhaps, it does make a difference.

Perhaps, you should vote SNP in the hope that your vote will contribute to the outcome that there will be one more SNP MP and one less Labour MP.  It appears that the Conservative leadership would be grateful to you for helping to decrease the number of Labour MPs.  There are strong suggestions that the Conservatives will place great store on getting more MPs than Labour.  It seems that they will declare that they have “won” the election if they get more seats than any other party – even if there is an anti-Tory majority in the new parliament.  In so doing, they will hope either that Labour will be forced to accept a minority Conservative administration or that any Labour-led administration will be delegitimised.  If you equate the best outcome in your constituency with the outcome favoured by the leaders of the party you support, you must vote SNP.  (And, secretly, that’s almost certainly the way they want you to vote.)

On the other hand, is that how you see the best outcome?  Is the Union better served by one more SNP MP or one less SNP MP, even if the alternative is a Labour MP?

This then is what you need to consider.  How do you balance any benefit to the Union against any benefit for party?

GE 2015: #10: Would a Minority Labour Government With SNP “Support” Be Workable? (2)

The line the Conservatives have been using heavily for the last 48 hours is that a minority Labour government forced to rely on the SNP to stay in power would be constantly harassed and blackmailed by the SNP.  Such a government would lurch from one crisis to the next, dying the death of a thousand cuts.  There have been suggestions that the SNP might pursue a wrecking policy that could even involve voting against Labour Finance Acts.  Normally, the defeat of the government’s Finance Act would be tantamount to a vote of no-confidence and would lead to an election.  But under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the government would not fall and the SNP would refuse to inflict the final blow on the critically-injured government.  Tensions between Scotland and the rest of the UK would reach a pitch where independence would seem like a blessed relief for everyone.

While I have little doubt that the SNP would have few qualms about such a policy, the SNP would have to play it carefully.  Even if the SNP wins a landslide in Scotland, it would lack support for a strategy of low-level war with the Labour government.  It risks alienating a significant part of its support. Yes, the SNP may well play as fast and loose as it can get away with but it may be less able to play games than it might hope.

In the event of a Labour minority government, Labour must call the SNP’s bluff.  It must be relentlessly positive and generous towards the SNP, even in the face of SNP machinations.  But it must also be relaxed about parliamentary defeats when it feels it needs to stand firm.  Parliamentary defeats need not be the crisis they would have been prior to the introduction of fixed-term parliaments.  Labour can turn these defeats to its advantage by portraying the SNP as the wrecker.

In truth, a minority government will need to operate more like an American executive.  The legislature will have its own mind and the executive will win some and it will lose some.  If Labour is bold enough, it can begin to build a better kind of politics in the UK.

GE 2015: #9: Would a Minority Labour Government With SNP “Support” Be Workable?

This is fast becoming the question in this election campaign.  With almost all forecasters predicting a hung parliament and with most predicting that the Conservatives will have insufficient seats to form any sort of government, it looks as if we are heading for a minority Labour government with explicit or implicit SNP support.  Of course, forecasts may be wrong.  But most forecasters have already factored in a small swing to the incumbents (the Tories) in the last few days of the campaign.  And the fractured nature of the electorate (which is why we seem to be heading towards a hung parliament) means that a late, marked, swing in one direction or the other is perhaps significantly less likely than in years gone by.

Broadly speaking, there seem to be three schools of thought about a Labour minority government with SNP support.

First:  left-wing optimism.  Nicola Sturgeon means what she says.  She really is committed to the good of people across the UK.  Her more radical anti-austerity policies are a positive corrective to Labour’s fearfulness.  With the support and prodding of the SNP, a Labour government might re-find its radicalism and rebuild our public services.  [See, for example, Zoe Williams in The Guardian, Monday 6 April.]

Second:  a working accommodation.  One suggestion is that the SNP gets a version of devo-max at the start of the parliament and, in return, decamps to Holyrood abstaining on Westminster legislation [see James Dennison’s piece at http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/a-lib-lab-coalition-is-perfectly-possible-with-the-snp-as-the-silent-partner%5D.

Third:  the SNP remains true to its nationalism and it acts cynically at all times to further independence.  All decisions it takes are with a view to blackening the UK government in the eyes of Scots and/or to obtaining a fresh referendum on Scottish independence.  In Matthew Parris’s words [The Times, Saturday 18 April], the SNP pursues a politics of sadism, putting the boot into the UK Labour administration whenever it suits its perfidious purposes.  Indeed, Matthew Parris goes so far as to suggest that the SNP would be happy to inflame English sentiment, in the hope of creating an atmosphere in which the English would be glad to see the back of Scotland.

I have previously blogged about the SNP’s hopes for the general election result [probably a Tory win – see #1 below] and I see no reason to demur from the argument I set out.  No doubt there are people of integrity in the SNP but the logic of their nationalism and the internal culture of the SNP will surely encourage them to pursue their nationalist agenda at the expense of a wholehearted commitment to any left-wing programme for a UK-government.  At best, the SNP will be conflicted.  So, left-wing optimism is misplaced.  It is simply too optimistic.

And Matthew Parris’s pessimism is just a shade over-the-top.  The SNP does not have a completely free-hand.  While its core supporters would likely accept any strategy that increased the likelihood of independence, lots of SNP voters are not committed to independence.  They will have voted SNP because of its broader programme (e.g. the non-renewal of Trident) not because they want independence at any cost and by any means.  The SNP cannot wholly ignore the sensibilities of these voters.

Finally, I think the silent partner argument posits an unlikely degree of discipline and reasonableness on the part of the SNP.  And, in any event, they have told Scots voters they will fight for Scottish interests.  That does not sit well with an arrangement whereby they are in a state of permanent abstention, a la Sinn Fein.  More likely, we can expect involvement, albeit erratic involvement:  generally in the perceived best interests of the nationalist agenda, sometimes in the best interests of Scots and sometimes (perhaps less frequently) in the interests of UK citizens as a whole.

But this need not be a disaster for Labour in government.  The biggest problem for minority governments is the risk of losing a no-confidence motion.  Not only will a minority government be worried about its own survival but the uncertainty threatens to have a wider destabilising effect on government as a whole and the economy.  The introduction of fixed-term parliaments does not, of itself, solve this problem.  An early election must follow a vote of no-confidence, even in this new dispensation.

So is a minority Labour administration at real risk of losing a vote of no-confidence?  Theoretically, the SNP would be in a position where it could engineer such a defeat.  It is quite likely that, in the next parliament, the SNP together with the Conservatives would have enough votes to win a no-confidence vote.  But the SNP has backed itself into something of a corner.  If there is a prospect that the Conservatives would win the subsequent election, the SNP would be going against its stated intention of keeping the Tories out of government.  That is not an easy sell.  If, on the other hand, it looks as Labour would improve its position in a  subsequent election, the SNP risks the loss of its influence:  Labour may win a majority.  [And almost certainly SNP jobs (i.e. MPs) would be on the line.  That always focuses the mind.  The 2015 general election may represent the high water mark of SNP representation at Westminster.]  There is little risk that the SNP would wield the knife to bring down a Labour minority government.

It would be easier for the SNP to abstain … and that makes the Liberals the bigger threat to a Labour administration.  If the SNP were to abstain in a no-confidence vote, the arithmetic in the next House of Commons may well mean that Conservatives with Liberal Democrat support could bring down the government.  But if Labour forms a coalition with the Liberals, the problem is addressed once and for all.  Given that Labour is not going to have its own way in the next parliament in any event, it makes sense to bring the Liberal Democrats back into government.  Hence the prediction of a Labour-Liberal coalition [see #8 below].