The Lib Dems have offered an olive branch to the Progress wing of the Labour party by inviting them to their party conference this autumn, in the strongest indication yet that some members of the two parties are seriously considering the prospect of a Lib/Lab coalition after the next general election.
Writing to Progress on Monday morning, Lib Dem president Tim Farron says:
"I have noted the moves from the GMB and others within the Labour Party to sideline Progress and force its members out of the party. This is a great shame. I do not mean to patronise you or your members by suggesting your response should be to join the Liberal Democrats.
I know that you very much consider yourselves a part of the Labour movement. But you are modern, progressive reformers and you deserve to be a part of the political debate in this country. In the Liberal Democrats we pride ourselves not only on being a modern, progressive reforming party, but also as an open democratic one that never shies away from debate. We are also a party that is prepared to work with others for the good of the country.
Whether it is the economy, political reform, climate change, health, education or any of the other major issues facing us as a country, we will be debating them at our conference. You and your members are welcome to join us and I’m sure the debate will be all the richer for it."
Progress - the Blairite centre-left wing of the Labour party - is facing calls to be ex-communicated from Labour by the GMB union, who describe them as "a party within a party". Although there is no sign that Ed Miliband is prepared to throw Progress out into the wilderness, it's fairly clear that the so-called progressives within Labour are on the back foot.
The appointment of Jon Cruddas to lead the party's policy review very quickly led to some high-profile speeches on immigration and notions of English nationalism. Cruddas believes that Labour governments shied away from these issues for too long.
Farron admitted to Huffington Post last month there was a degree of dialogue between him and Labour people over what the electoral landscape might look like after 2015. He also said there were "blueprints for coalition disengagement", something Vince Cable subsequently refused to pour cold water on.
With Unite leader Len McCluskey calling for Labour to prepare for an early general election and David Cameron's welfare speech on Monday talking in terms about how the Tories would run a single-party government post-2015, it's fairly obvious that senior strategists in all the big parties are now focusing on who will form the next government.
Farron's letter will add to speculation that the Lib Dems might want to water down their role in the coalition sometime before the next election. And although Progress is unlikely to be booted out of the Labour party, it could well be that their policies and ideals are neglected in favour of something else by Ed Miliband. Farron senses that if that happens, the only alternative home for Labour Blairites is among the Lib Dems.
There is of course the alternative view - voiced most recently by the Labour MP Chris Williamson, who in a Labourlist blog says the Lib Dems are widely regarded as "fraudulent tricksters". Williamson's view is that Labour should be focusing on an outright majority at the next election - something the Tories are obviously hell-bent on, too.
Mark Ferguson from LabourList told HuffPost: "This is a laughable attempt from the Lib Dems to try and woo Progress members. I hope that if anyone from Progress does take up Farron on his offer, they'll use the opportunity to express their contempt for the weakness of the Lib Dems in this so called 'coalition'."
But progressives within Labour look ahead to a post-Clegg Lib Dems, driven by a grassroots revulsion at how he managed to get in bed with the Tories. Some believe that Labour needs to prepare to battle a rejuvenated Lib Dem party which will seek to fill in a void left by Labour, if it proceeds further down the Jon Cruddas/Maurice Glasman route.
Progress has been fairly subdued in its response to attacks from the GMB union. So far it hasn't made any comment about this olive branch from Tim Farron, it will be interesting to see what they have to say, if anything.