Is the answer a blue-yellow incumbents’ pact?
One thing that strikes me following Old & Sad is that Labour is in a stronger position to gain seats in parliamentary by-elections than any opposition party has been for decades.
For where SNP/PC considerations don’t apply the red team will always be the unequivocal choice for those wanting to oppose the government. The protest vote won’t be split. Normally they’ve had to have a spat with the yellows over who is best placed to beat the Tories but now that doesn’t apply.
So if the blues and yellows both contest seats where one of the coalition partners is defending then the chances of Labour victories are that much higher – and nothing could weaken the government more than a series of by-election losses.
To forestall this I think that we might see the Tories and Lib Dems agreeing to a limited by-election pact now so that in seats being defended by one of the partners the non-incumbent party would stand aside?
Such an arrangement would only exist for the period that the coalition is in existence and would only apply where the Tories or Lib Dems are defending. It would not impact on what either does in the seats at the next general election.
It would also avoid potentially tricky campaigns if the blues and the yellows are fighting against each other in a seat that one is trying to hold on to. By agreeing this is advance it would make it less of an issue within the party standing aside when such by-election vacancies come up.