On 25 November Jeremy Corbyn reiterated his opposition to a coalition with the Lib Dems if the Tories lose the election but Labour does not win a majority.
He did not respond to a question about coalitions versus forming a minority government. Mostly Labour’s leaders have rightly said they oppose a coalition and that, if Labour comes out from 12 December ahead of the Tories but short of a majority, they will go for a minority government. The Lib Dems have gone even further and said they will not vote to make Corbyn prime minister, let alone join a coalition.
However, on 19 November the Financial Times carried an article quoting (anonymous) sources from within Corbyn’s “inner circle” hinting at the need for a coalition government.
The left should oppose calls for a coalition and organise to prevent one.
The SNP and in particular the Lib Dems are capitalist parties. We support Labour because despite its limitations, and in fact a long record of bourgeois policy, it is based on the organised labour movement. Coalition with out-and-out bourgeois parties would mean more tightly tying Labour to the capitalist power structure and neutralising the scope for the rank-and-file of the labour movement to mandate the leadership. Isolated issues on which, say, the SNP is to the left of Labour, like Trident, don’t alter that basic picture.
As the FT comments: “if Mr Corbyn did manage to enter 10 Downing Street, his left-wing programme to overhaul the economy by nationalising several industries and extending workers’ rights could be watered down by any parliamentary partners that Labour agrees to work with.”
Some of the same problem would exist with a minority government. If Labour doesn’t have a majority, it doesn’t have a majority (and there is also an issue of some Labour MPs refusing to vote for left-wing policies). That is why a minority government would be unstable and very likely terminate in Labour having to appeal to the electorate well before a normal parliamentary term.
But that is exactly what the party should do – attempt to carry out its manifesto, vocally explain what it stands for, and, if blocked, appeal to the voters to give it a majority. As well as turning out the vote in the coming weeks, labour movement activists need to develop strong and militant organisation in workplaces and communities to support but also pressure the Labour government, help win a majority and ensure the program is carried out.
In contrast, coalition with the Lib Dems or SNP means negotiating to retreat from Labour’s program and institutionalising a much safer, less radical one from the very start of a new government. It would mean insulating the Labour leadership from rank-and-file party and labour movement pressure.
It would mean, eventually, Labour facing an election not on the basis of its policies but whatever it cobbled together with more right-wing, more bourgeois political forces.
Leaning on its policy of a fresh Brexit referendum, Labour should challenge the other parties to allow it to form a minority government and use the momentum to push through its wider program. It should exploit attempts by the Lib Dems or SNP to oppose left-wing policies to strip them of their left-leaning supporters.
Better and stronger policies on Brexit, free movement and the like would help.