Labour cools on the idea of coalition with Lib Dems in the event of another hung parliament at next election

Miliband aide says party would favour 'looser arrangement' which would see senior Lib Dems lose their ministerial posts

Political Editor

Ed Miliband may stop short of offering the Liberal Democrats a coalition if Labour is the largest party after next year's general election and fails to win an overall majority.

Close allies are urging the Labour leader to run a minority government and seek the Lib Dems' support in key votes to ensure a Commons majority. Nick Clegg and other senior Lib Dems would lose their ministerial posts under such a “confidence and supply” agreement. “I don't think we would go for a coalition; it would probably be a looser arrangement,” said one Miliband adviser.

Labour's cooling on the idea of a coalition could prevent a deal with the Lib Dems in another hung parliament. Mr Clegg would seek a second coalition if either the Conservatives or Labour fail to win an overall majority next year. “To get Lib Dem policies, we need Lib Dems in government,” one Clegg aide said.

The Deputy Prime Minister said in April: “I want to remain in government. We've only just got started and a 10-year period for us in government means we could make a major contribution.”

However, some senior Lib Dems want the party to consider a “confidence and supply” deal with Labour, as their party could then vote for or against its policies on their merit. They believe that, after the Lib Dems' disastrous performance in last month's Euro elections, the party's members would never approve a second coalition with the Tories and might be cautious about sharing power with Labour. The Lib Dem rulebook says that any arrangement with another party must be approved by the Lib Dems' MPs, federal executive and members.

Relations between Labour and the Lib Dems went into deep freeze when Mr Clegg took his party into coalition with the Tories in 2010. But the the ice has gradually melted and Mr Miliband and Mr Clegg have held talks on newspaper regulation and Europe.

This week it emerged that two close allies of both leaders met for dinner at London's Joe Allen restaurant in April. Labour's Lord (Andrew) Adonis and Lord (Stewart) Wood met Jonny Oates, Mr Clegg's chief of staff and Neil Sherlock, his former head of government relations. Insiders denied the four men discussed a possible post-election deal, insisting that the main purpose was to talk about Europe before the Euro elections.

Privately, Labour sources admit the party was ill-prepared for a hung parliament in 2010 and recognised that private pre-election talks between the Tories and Lib Dems made it easier for them to strike a deal after polling day. “We are covering all the bases this time; we might need the Lib Dems,” said one Labour frontbencher.

Some Labour MPs believe Mr Miliband will take a hard line against a full coalition before the election but could soften his stance if he fails to win a majority. They say a coalition would provide more stability than the constant threat of Commons defeats under a minority government.

The Lib Dems have lost the support of more than half of the people who voted for them in 2010, many of whom have switched to Labour. Mr Miliband needs to keep them and so he cannot be too nice to Mr Clegg - in public, at least - in case these voters viewed that as permission to return to the Lib Dem fold.

Mr Clegg will fight the election as “equidistant” from the two other main parties. In a hung parliament, Mr Clegg would talk first to the party with the most seats and votes.

On Wednesday night, Lib Dem MPs unanimously backed Mr Clegg to remain party leader, despite a grassroots move to oust him by forcing a leadership election.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'