The next coalition? Why Ed Miliband needs to get Nick Clegg's number

Former minister Peter Hain – a close ally of the Labour leader – tells Andrew Grice that his party must start making overtures to the Lib Dems

A senior Labour MP has urged Ed Miliband to start preparing now for a possible coalition with the Liberal Democrats because it will be difficult for the party to win an overall majority in 2015.

In an interview with The Independent, the former Cabinet minister Peter Hain said Labour needs to build personal relationships with the Lib Dems well before the next election and talk about forming an “anti-Tory alliance” in the event of another hung parliament. “We need back channels and to exchange mobile phone numbers,” he said.

Mr Hain, a close ally of Mr Miliband, was an unofficial go-between with the Lib Dems when no party won an overall majority in 2010. He wants Labour to learn lessons from the frantic five-day period in which Nick Clegg’s party held talks with both the Conservatives and Labour but ended up joining David Cameron in coalition.

He is prepared to say in public what many Labour MPs are thinking privately – that it will be hard for Labour to win an overall majority in 2015. “I don’t think Cameron can win the next election,” he said. “He did not win in 2010; the Tories are a divided party, especially on Europe; they have damaged a lot of people and are seen as incompetent.”

Mr Hain added: “I think Labour will be the largest party [in terms of seats]. The question is whether we can win a majority. I will be fighting tooth and nail for that majority. It will be quite difficult for us to win a majority straight after a heavy defeat [in 2010]…We could do it with a relatively low percentage of the vote. I think we will get a minimum of 35 or 36 per cent [of the vote] and we could edge above that.”

Mr Hain believes the rise of the UK Independence Party will make it even harder for any party to win an overall majority in an era of multi-party politics. “The old two-party model is bust. It was at its height in 1951, when 97 per cent of people voted either Conservative or Labour. In 2010, only two out of three did. Since then, it has got worse. The Lib Dems will not for a generation be the reservoir for the anti-establishment protest vote. Ukip is hoovering up most of that.”

The former Work and Pensions Secretary predicted a hung parliament before the 2010 election but said senior Labour figures, unlike their Tory counterparts, did not prepare the ground for talks with the Lib Dems. “Labour was in denial. Most of the leadership thought we were going to lose and were astonished that the Tories didn’t win an overall majority,” he admitted.

Unlike Mr Cameron, Gordon Brown was not on good terms with Mr Clegg. “The lack of any personal relationship was a big problem,” said Mr Hain. “Gordon was a bit chippy.”

He added: “It is about personal trust and relationships. Ed Miliband is a very open person. People warm to him. He is very different to Gordon…It’s not a question of becoming best buddies. It is about deciding we are against the Tories being in power.”

The Lib Dems demanded that Mr Brown stand down in the unsuccessful Lib-Lab negotiations and Mr Hain believes Mr Clegg would be in the same boat in 2015. “It is not for Labour MPs to choose other parties’ leaders. But a majority of Lib Dems would have preferred an alliance with Labour last time and would do next time, probably with a new [Lib Dem] leader.”

He believes Labour is a more natural partner for the Lib Dems than the Tories, citing their joint approach to Europe, the Leveson report on press regulation and a mansion tax on homes worth more than £2m.

Senior Lib Dems insist that, as they did after the last election, they would talk first to the party with the most seats to respect the voters’ wishes. Mr Hain, who was president of the Young Liberals in the 1970s, admits that in 2010, the “parliamentary arithmetic” was against the “progressive alliance” he wants to see.

But he believes that a Lib-Lab deal would be the only realistic outcome in a 2015 hung parliament – even if the Tories are the largest party. “If Cameron loses another election, which I think he will, I don’t see he will have any credibility for a second term,” he said.

Mr Hain, an early backer for Mr Miliband for Labour leader after the party’s 2010 defeat, said: “Labour is very well placed to win the next election and be the biggest party. We are united – that is one of Ed’s biggest achievements. Labour-inclined voters are really angry about what the Government is doing. Ed is still quite unknown by the public. In the heat and exposure of a general election, people will get to like him.”

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Market Administrator (1st line Support, Bloomberg, Broker)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Administrator (1st line Support, Trade Fl...

Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Directory, ITIL, Reuter)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst (Windows, Active Dire...

Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Server, Reuters)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Data Support Analyst (Linux, Solaris, Windows Se...

Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, Exchange)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Helpdesk Support Engineer (Windows, MS Office, E...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition