Let's start off with a question. Though it has happened at local level on a number of occasions, most Labour people from all wings of the party would react with horror about cutting a deal with the Tories. Why? It isn't a matter of them being "not us". Politics is not a game of football where someone is wedded to one side and affects hatred for designated rivals. On the whole, the reaction against the Tories is because of what they do. We see their policies hammer our people and protect the privileged, and more often than not regardless of the damage they wreak on the fabric of social life. We know they represent a set of interests that ultimately aren't the same, and indeed are opposed to the interests of the people our party represents.
Let's bear that in mind when we come to the Liberal Democrats. Tony Blair liked to flatter them by pretending their party lies within the radical tradition, but that is to evacuate any sense of meaning from the term. The LibDems, historically, represented the less backward elements of the same class the Tories do. When they collapsed and were supplanted by Labour in the 1920s, they faded away into electoral obscurity. Yet, philosophically and in terms of its core constituency, they were not qualitatively different from the Tories. The Liberals as were had sharp policy differences with the Conservatives from time to time, but these were of degree and not of kind. And we don't need to play thought experiments or dredge up records in local government. They might have prevented some utterly mad Tory policies while in coalition, but their time with ministerial portfolios saw through cuts to social security, the doubling down of market mechanisms in the public sector (especially in the NHS), and a complete abandonment of their Keynes-lite strategy for getting the British economy moving again. They are hostile to trade unions acting politically and, lest we forget, that nice "lefty" Tim Farron is open to the idea of going in with the Tories again. Lovely.
The SNP and Plaid Cymru, on paper, should be better candidates for a progressive alliance. Leanne Wood is a nice centre left-type with a Trot pedigree to her name. Nicola Sturgeon's closet has no Fourth Internationalist skeletons, alas, but apart from independence you could make a case for the Scottish government being more consistently social democratic than the Labour administrations preceding it. What's more, the SNP had its own Corbyn-style surge long before Corbs lent his name to politics-defining membership surges. In one sense, the SNP is entirely different to what it was before the Scottish referendum. Most of the left are there. Most of the progressive vote are there. And yet, two stubborn political realities remain. Despite approaching the same number of members as the Tories, it has made little difference to the SNP politically. It remains pretty much the same outfit with the same people in charge. Scottish radicalism hasn't remade the party in the same way Corbynism has upended everything in Labour. That, ultimately, has something to do with the character of the SNP as a bourgeois nationalist party. The basic political subject it's trying to organise is the nation, and in capitalist societies the interests of the nation are defined in impeccably bourgeois terms: growing GDP, low inflation rates, balance of payments, the successful competition over markets and so on. True, the SNP offer 'nice' civic, left-tinged nationalism and not the ugly rubbish long associated with Britishness and Englishness in particular, yet it too cannot resist defining itself against the backward, Tory-voting xenophobes south of the border. Nor seeking to exacerbate divisions in Labour, its long time rival and potential future nemesis. Perhaps I'm old fashioned for sticking to the view that nationalism is the passage to division and the domination of politics by unscrupulous scoundrels. What an idle whimsy, eh? The same applies to Plaid as well. While seeking more autonomy for Wales in a federal-style arrangement, which seem entirely sensible to me, for PC it's a step toward independence and ultimately they organise on that basis, albeit much less successfully than their friends in the north. For us, interests and solidarity exits across borders. For the SNP and Plaid, that fundamentally threatens their project.
And the Greens. Of the four parties they are perhaps the best candidates for an alliance with Labour. Our party arose to prosecute the claims and interests of working people in capitalism, and green parties respond to the environmental despoliation that same system has accumulated in slag heaps, rubbish tips, and long-term changes to the climate. Both are potentially and imminently radical because of the adversarial position they have vis conventional economics. Where Labour and the Greens differ is at the level of constituency. Labour is powered by working people generally - historically most of the "traditional" working class and the middle class in the professions and public sector, and now increasingly by the networked worker. The Greens by small business and also sections of the middle class. Unlike the other parties, there is a tension between these constituencies but no fundamental opposition. An alliance that wouldn't lead to political catastrophe a la Italy's Democratic Party is possible here. Thing is, it's completely pointless. The Greens didn't cost Labour the general election. A deal would benefit the Greens - Caroline Lucas would remain unmolested in Brighton - but where's the quid pro quo for the much larger would-be partner?
There's nothing wrong with members from different parties working together where interests are episodically aligned, but a tie up is fraught with serious difficulties. There are significant sections in each, particularly Labour and the SNP who wouldn't countenance such a thing. Sinking differences into an amorphous nice-politics-for-nice-anti-Tory-people formation is a recipe for splits. The second problem is, well, the national card. The Tories proved adept at playing it in 2015 and, unfortunately, it did frighten the horses in too many marginals. A full blown alliance unhappily risks stirring the rank politics of English nationalism and anti-elite populism. Remember, the consequences of its recent outing hasn't been positive. And lastly, an alliance between irreconcilable parties won't fly because of the interests underpinning them. So-called tribalism recognises this truism of politics. No matter how crude its expression, such dumb materialism is more advanced than "enlightened" views stubbornly refusing to understand politics beyond free floating ideas.