The news that Phil Woolas has been found guilty by the special election court and that the race for Oldham and Saddleworth will have to be re-run, may at first seem like its an important test for Ed Milliband’s already faltering leadership. However, its a far more vital and potentially highly damaging test for the Liberal-Tory coalition.
The Lib Dem’s were at the general election only a hundred odd votes behind Labour. The Tories were much further behind requiring at least a 5% swing to take the seat. If the Liberals and the Tories go all out at each other, Labour will win and the coalition will look foolish (and Labour won’t let them forget it) and it will be portrayed as a significant blow against coalition policy.
The obvious answer is to allow the Liberal candidate to run on a coalition ticket. It makes sense for both parties campaign on their record in government so far; to present a united front. There are precedents: there has been previous elections in which Liberal and Tory supporters have not opposed one another. Surely both sides will want to maximise the anti-Labour vote? Of course there will be a vocal minority in each party who would rather tear chunks out of each other rather than get elected; the question will be whether Nick Clegg will be able to stand up to this element of his party.
Ed Milliband need only sit back and watch the fun.