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Gisela Stuart stuns party chiefs with Labour-Tory ‘grand coalition’ forecast

Gisela Stuart stuns party chiefs with Labour-Tory ‘grand coalition’ forecast

🕔02.Mar 2015

Edgbaston Labour MP Gisela Stuart has raised the possibility of her party forming a “grand coalition” with the Conservatives after the General Election in an arrangement similar to the Government that ran Britain during the Second World War.

Mrs Stuart has a habit of speaking her mind and is known for her independent views, but the suggestion in advance of the election that Labour and the Tories could end up forming a governing partnership does not appear to have gone down well either with her own colleagues or the Conservatives.

She made her forecast in an interview with the Financial Times.

The newspaper reported an unnamed Conservative spokesperson declaring the idea of a grand coalition “has a snowball in hell’s chance” of happening, while Labour described the idea as “utter, utter nonsense”.

Mrs Stuart, who has held Edgbaston for Labour since 1997, will be defending a slender 1,273 vote majority against the Conservatives at the General Election on May 7. Tory candidate Dr Luke Evans requires a 1.6 per cent swing to win the seat.

This is by no means the first time that Mrs Stuart has appeared to be adrift of mainstream Labour opinion. Born in West Germany in 1955, she is a Eurosceptic who rebelled against the Lisbon Treaty and supports an in-out referendum on Britain’s continuing membership of the EU.

She is a supporter of cities being run by directly elected mayors and in October 2011 announced that she would seek the Labour nomination to run for mayor of Birmingham if the city voted for such a position in a referendum. In the event, Birmingham rejected a mayor in 2012.

Mrs Stuart told the Financial Times she thought Labour should not rule out doing a deal with the Tories, uniting the two major parties for the first time since the war.

A Conservative-Labour coalition under Prime Minister Winston Churchill governed Britain from May 10 1940 to May 23 1945, lasting five years against the odds. When a General election was finally held in July 1945 Churchill and the Tories suffered a heavy defeat to a landslide victory by Labour under Clement Attlee.

Mrs Stuart said: “If on May 8 you had a position where Labour had more seats than the Tories but not enough to form a government — but the Tories had more votes than Labour — I think you should not dismiss the possibility of a grand coalition in terms of regrouping of the main.

“If no party has won an overall majority then it will have to work with another party. And as you work through the options, do not rule out that you have a grand coalition.”

The main left and right wing parties, the CDU and the Social Democrats, are in a coalition Government in Germany, an arrangement that Mrs Stuart thinks has benefitted the country. She added: “When you have to make very difficult decisions, the broader the baseline from which you work, the more you are able to do these things.”

The idea of a grand coalition between Labour and the Conservatives was mooted by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable in January.

He told guests after recording a BBC Question Time programme: “We may have to prepare ourselves for the possibility that we won’t be in the coalition at all, that there will be a grand coalition between Labour and the Tories instead.

“It’s not something I’m advocating, as it would put me out of a job. But we need to consider all of the possibilities.”

Ian Birrell, a former speechwriter for David Cameron, has speculated about a national government bringing together the largest parties: “A government of national unity between Labour and the Conservatives may sound far-fetched, especially amid the froth and fury of a nascent election campaign.

“It would certainly be tricky, exacerbating internal divisions and leading to more defections.

“Yet, while there are serious disagreements, the two parties have more in common with each other than with the insurgents on many key issues.”

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