A Conservative-Labour grand coalition should not be "unthinkable" after the general election on May 7, former Labour cabinet minister Charles Clarke has said,
The ex-Labour MP, who served as Tony Blair's home secretary and education secretary, said on Thursday that Ed Miliband and David Cameron should work closer together to solve some of Britain's biggest problems.
He pointed to continental Europe as an example where alliances between centre-left and centre-right parties were commonplace.
"Germany has a grand coalition, which is not at all an uncommon thing in German recent history. The two main parties are in coition with a distribution of posts and so on to deal with it," he said.
"The European parliament is a grand coalition effectively. The conservative parties and socialist parties are in one body which is marginalising the extremists in the European parliament.
"As recently as 1998-2004 the French had cohabitation between president Chirac and and prime minister Jospin from different parties. In fact there were previous periods of cohabitation in France as well."
Clarke told an audience at the University of London that the "one outcome that is not being talked about" was a Labour-Tory deal after May 7. "Why is it so unthinkable that there should be a Conservative-Labour alliance?" he asked.
The former Labour cabinet minister said while he also found it "difficult" to imagine such an arrangement it was "not obvious why, if Germany or France or the European parliament can operate in that way, we can't operate in that kind of way".
The chances of a Tory-Labour grand coalition are almost infinitesimally small. However with the Tories and Labour running neck-and-neck in the polls, politicians from both parties have raised the issue in recent weeks as a way to shut out the influence of the smaller parties such as Ukip and the SNP. Much to the horror of most of their colleagues.
Labour MP Gisela Stuart told the Financial Times that Cameron and Miliband "should not dismiss the possibility of a grand coalition" after the election. And former Conservative Party chairman Lord Baker told The Independent a Miliband-Cameron alliance could be the only way to ensure the "continuing unity" of the United Kingdom in the face of the threat of Scottish nationalism.
Clarke pointed to the establishment of the welfare state and the Northern Ireland peace process as two examples of big victories that were only won thanks to the "complete agreement" between the leaderships of both main parties in Westminster.
The former MP, who lost his seat at the 2010 election and has been critical of Miliband's leadership of Labour, said it would be "very popular" among voters if the main parties worked together on issues such as mental health, social care or party funding.
"At the end of the day always, there is a political benefit, in a short-termist political system, for the Opposition to attack the government and for that to be what goes on," he said. "There is little benefit to being seen to work together."
He said as the election gets underway Miliband should come out with five policy areas that he wanted to work with Cameron on aside from the cut and thrust of the campaign. "I think people generally would absolutely delighted," he said.