Lib Dems yearn for Labour coalition

Most Liberal Democrat activists want the party to support Labour rather than the Conservatives in government after the next general election, a poll has found.

Research by grassroots website found 55% of party members want either a coalition deal with Labour or a more limited 'confidence and supply' arrangement in which the Lib Dems prevent a Labour administration from falling.

While just 15% back the latter with Labour, only five per cent support the same deal with the Conservatives. Just 18% of Lib Dems want to a repeat of the present Conservative-Lib Dem alliance after 2015.

The findings reflect growing background links between Labour and the Lib Dems over the course of the last 12 months.

But LibDemVoice co-editor Stephen Tall said "too much bile has been spilled" for full coalition negotiations to be successful.

"While the results in our poll suggest the party would be willing to sign up to a coalition with Labour next time around, it seems very doubtful Labour will be prepared to offer the party the kind of deal that will make it acceptable," he said.

"Moreover, the Lib Dems may well not be in as strong a bargaining position next time."

Tall warned Nick Clegg's party is likely to shed votes in 2015 and could find itself with a significantly reduced number of MPs, which will reduce its bargaining power if Ed Miliband does not succeed in winning an overall majority.

Nearly three-quarters of Liberal Democrats expect a hung parliament, today's poll of over 600 members suggested.

But only 40% think the Lib Dems will return to power in a coalition. Of these, three-quarters expect a deal with Labour and just one-quarter another deal with David Cameron's Conservatives.

The latest YouGov poll forecast the Lib Dems would attract just eight per cent of voters in 2015, resulting in it keeping just nine of its MPs.

Coalition talks are on the agenda again at the moment as Andrew Adonis, a prominent Labour supporter of an alliance with the Lib Dems, publicises his new book Five Days In May: The Coalition And Beyond.

His argument is that the post-election talks could have had a very different outcome if Gordon Brown had swiftly resigned and an alternative, like Alan Johnson, had led negotiations with the Lib Dems.

"Lord Adonis rightly spells out Labour's lack of preparation, which certainly astonished us at the time," Andrew Stunell, a member of Clegg's team, wrote in a letter to the Guardian.

"But he doesn't mention that they made up in arrogance what they lacked in comprehension. Their offer was for us to join them to deliver Labour's programme unconditionally."