I’m currently reading Alastair Campbell’s “The Blair Years”.
Lots of the really juicy stuff has been edited out, of course, but there’s still quite a lot of interesting details here and there.
For instance, on page 249 (5/10/97) it says this about Tony Blair’s thoughts on the political parties:
Second, Lib Dems. He was now moving towards an April reshuffle in which he would like to bring two Liberals into the Cabinet, with some kind of full-scale merger after the next election, with an electoral commission on AV for this time, ‘proper’ PR afterwards, at which point the Tories would be wiped out.
Apart from the problem that Blair seems not to have realised that many (most?) Libdems don’t consider themselves some kind of lost Labour members to be integrated at the behest of the Labour leader, he seems to have beeen incredibly naïve about how a multi-party democracy works.
If proportional representation is used, there is no need for big, broad parties, because smaller parties can get elected, too. So under PR, the Tories would never be wiped out, and there would be no point in merging Labour and the Libdems. The only point in merging those parties would be to increase their number of seats under first-past-the-post.
Also, no party can rule forever in a democracy. At some point, people will tire of it, and they’ll vote for alternatives. So although merging Labour and the Libdems might have prolonged the years in the wilderness for the Tories, people would have tired of the Labdems eventually, too.
The only way to wipe out a party is to give its voters something else to vote for.
Probably the best chance in recent decades for wiping out the Tories would have been for the Libdems to have overtaken the Tories under IDS in 2003, thus replacing the Tory-Labour system with a Labour-Libdem one.
Merging Labour and the Libdems would ultimately have strengthened the Tories, not wiped them out.