There has been some talk of late of the need for the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats to merge. Such talk is not unexpected. We are in a period of great political uncertainty. Two unions (the United Kingdom itself and its union with the EU) are now at risk of falling apart. Both Labour and the Lib Dems have suffered significant defeats. Nationalists now form the main party in Scotland (SNP) and the third party in England (UKIP). Both Labour and the Lib Dems need to contemplate their next steps carefully.
So a discussion of a merger should not be taboo. I quite agree that all options should be open. But such a merger in order to "gain power" would come at the detriment of British democracy. All the major parties of the United Kingdom are unwieldy coalitions of quite different groups. The Lib Dems don't just break down into Social Democrats and Liberals. There are classical liberals, social liberals, social democrats and people further to the left. All find a home in the Lib Dems for entirely practical reasons... there is no other party that represents their interests better even if it is far from perfect. Whereas, for example, these groups would have 3 or 4 different parties in most northern European countries to choose from that more closely align to their beliefs, here in the United Kingdom our electoral systems mean we must make some uncomfortable compromises.
This is already detrimental to our democratic choices. We should be working to enable MORE choice politically not only to encourage more people to engage with politics but also to allow more diverse voices to be heard in our Parliament and better represent the real feelings of the British people.
Merging the Lib Dems with another coalition of divergent groups (i.e. the Labour party) might make everyone feel like their are being very grown-up and overcoming nasty partisan feelings and able to make those "uncomfortable decisions" that are "for the greater good". But what they will really be doing is denying people a choice of parties with a reasonable chance of affecting Government policy that best fit their beliefs.
I, as a liberal, would find it incredibly difficult to support a Lab-Lib Dem candidate who, perhaps, is of the Bennite tradition. I shouldn't need to put party unity ahead of agreeing with the candidate for my constituency. But that would be exactly what I'd be asked to do. This sort of merger does not decrease partisan feelings. It seeks to curtail diverse voices and replace diversity with conformity to a unified party of the "left". Surely putting such a mongrel of a party before your own personal beliefs would be the very definition of "partisan"?
Better we get a better electoral system which allows for a greater diversity of parties which, though none will ever represent us all, will allow people in this country to stop making uncomfortable compromises at every election and allow their true voices to be heard.
Then the parties will be the ones having to make those uncomfortable decisions and be grown-ups and work together in coalitions "for the greater good". That would be far superior and must be what we all work together to achieve.
There's nothing stopping the Labour and Lib Dem parties working together towards such electoral reform. Better that than an unhappy marriage of convenience for nothing more than power-hungry reasons.