Even if Labour came third in the popular vote - indeed, if I have understood him, even if Labour is behind the Tories in seats - Barder argues that Labour can and should assume the role of government under Gordon Brown. It should proceed to present a Queen's Speech and test the nerve of the other parties - in particular the Lib Dems - to vote it down.
Barder envisages Brown producing a Queen's speech with plenty of goodies - he refers to 'Lib Dem shibboleths' like civil liberties - to woo the Lib Dems.
Barder thinks the Lib Dems would draw back from voting Labour down. Why? Because if they did vote Labour down, the Tories would then get to form a minority government. They would probably offer the Lib Dems less. What would the Lib Dems then do? Vote this government down? Barder argues this would precipitate a fresh election in which the Tories would romp home with a nice majority, thank you very much. Indeed, he confidently predicts that the result of this fresh election would be a Lib Dem 'wipeout'.
Now if the Lib Dems rationally anticipate all of this, then of course they will stop at the first step: they will support Labour's Queen's speech.
As the saying goes, let's 'get real'. Any argument of this kind has to be based on a serious estimation of the costs and benefits to the various parties of various courses of action. What makes Barder's story fanciful in the extreme - aside from being so objectionable in democratic terms - is the way he selectively ignores some obvious and substantial costs while hugely exaggerating others.
First, and foremost, any attempt by Labour to hold onto office on its own in such circumstances (in particular being third in the popular vote and/or being the second party in terms of seats) would drain the party of credibility in the country. Labour is lower in the polls at the moment than it has been since the 1983 general election. But I dread to think how low the poll ratings would go if Labour attempted to cling on to office in the way that Barder describes.
Second, because we can anticipate that the attempt to cling to office will be so unpopular, we can also anticipate that it is likely to be strongly opposed from within Labour's ranks. Could the party's leader carry the party with him on such a journey?
Third, there is an obvious, huge cost to the Lib Dems of voting or allowing through a Labour Queen's Speech in these circumstances. They throw away their hard-earned credibility as the 'party of change'.But what about the supposedly nightmare consequences to the Lib Dems of failing to support a Labour Queen's speech? Am I not ignoring these?
It is here that Barder's analysis switches from a convenient refusal to acknowledge costs of action to an implausible exaggeration of costs.
So let us imagine the Lib Dems do vote Labour down and a Tory minority government forms. Either they offer enough goodies to the Lib Dems to stop them voting them out, e.g., a referendum on PR, or they don't. If they don't, why won't the Lib Dems vote them out too? Barder's claim is that this would (a) precipitate a fresh election which (b) the Tories would win and (c) would see a Lib Dem 'wipeout'.
Every single one of these assertions is questionable. Assume, for the sake of argument, that elections do get called. Barder has no basis whatsoever for predicting that the Tories would comfortably win. If a Lib Dem - Tory deal fell through, why wouldn't that reflect badly on the Tories? Why wouldn't fresh elections, occurring against this sequence of events, produce a revulsion against both Labour and the Tories and a further Lib Dem surge?
If Labour fails to win a parliamentary majority at this election it had better respect the wish of the British people - something for which Barder apparently has very little respect - which would have spoken clearly against having a Labour government.
Stuart White is a lecturer in Politics at Oxford University where he directs the Public Policy Unit. He writes at Next Left in a personal capacity and is not a spokesperson for the Fabian Society.