I was going to let Polly Toynbee's comment yesterday about Lab-Lib being the only legitimate coalition go until I saw her quote on the front of today's paper*.
"Shimmering on the horizon was the chance for a progressive alliance, a rocket about to take off. Then it crashed to earth."
Now I'll admit I'm no rocket scientist but over 30 years of reading sci-fi and sci-fact gives me a basic understanding of many of the key principles. So lets look at that above statement piece by piece.
On the horizon
You know I'll give her that, this is accurate. The Labour negotiating team remained on the horizon. Their aim was to defend their manifesto. It was like Custer's last stand. They were entrenching trying to defend the indefensible and not give ground. Hence they were on the horizon.
Chance for a progressive alliance
Yeah was a chance for an alliance, yes it would have been widely of progressive thought, but here's the crux. How much of that progressiveness would have been allowed to progress? It was a minority at worst or rainbow mash up at best. There would have been many conflicting agendas to try and get anything done. Yeah while there may have been a possibility of a progressive alliance how much chance did it really have to manoeuvre?
Rocket about to take off
As I said before there was no give from the Labour. The first docking of American and USSR vehicles in space came across a problem, they had different shaped airlocks. There was a solution they worked together to make it compatible. If they didn't then 5 space travellers would have been killed by the vacuum created by the incorrectly linked vessels.
The problem was the same with the Labour and Lib Dem negotiations, however, there was no give from one side. Without compromise to move into brave new politics things would have been wiped out into the vacuum of political space. The Lib Dems had brought down their Scottish coalition negotiating team, it appears that Labour had not. In 1999 and 2003 Labour did know how to work together with others to come to a satisfactory settlement this time they didn't.
They were sticking to their manifesto. It was like turning up at the NASA assembly building with Galilleo's plans for flight and being scoffed at by the NASA engineers when they refused to change things. It wasn't the commander of the mission alone that was the problem, it was his engineers and indeed his crew who had started to debate how to avoid allowing AV from their own manifesto as well.
Crashed to the Earth
Sorry Polly to crash to the earth you have to first take off.
That requires the right fuel, it also requires enough fuel to break gravity and eventually the atmosphere. There wasn't the right fuel it was a volatile mix but not enough to power anything. Also there wasn't enough of it to allow lift-off. Yeah there would have been 313 MPs in Alliance with SDLP and Alliance party 317 but that still isn't enough to provide a stable flight into the future. NASA would have been worried about tiles falling off effecting re-entry with disastrous effects at every step of the journey.
As for Shimmering I think it was lukewarm at best way off getting to the simmering stage whatsoever.
If you want to play the blame game as your article says Polly, you'll have to admit that Labour spent 13 years becoming less progressive by the day and that is what cost them a chance to form a fully progressive alliance. The Lib Dems increased their share of the vote but because of the vagaries of our electoral system ended up with less representation, and Cameron won over most of those who turned up to vote. Simples!
* Yes Murdoch has truly lost my pound a day.