"It seems to me that the Liberal Democrats are likely to splinter at the time of the next election between if you like the Orange Book leadership, Nick Clegg and others at the top, and what I think of as the majority of Liberal Democrats."
"If that happens, then I think there is a prospect for some kind of alliance, with if you like... the genuine Liberal Democrats, together with the Greens and together possibly with other forces."
"But I think from the basis of where we are at the moment I think it is very possible we can win the next election but it is very difficult for us to win a majority and therefore we need to look to alliances well beyond our ranks in order to effectively get a majority government to stop the Tories with others, whoever they might be next time, carrying forward this very right-wing agenda."
There is no doubt that, in advance of the next General Election, Liberal Democrats are going to have to give serious thought to the questions of "what if". This will involve some discreet discussions to see where the common ground is, if any, to discover who will dance, and who won't, if the public decide not to award a clear mandate next time.
This makes the comments from Peter Hain above look interesting. Yes, those discussions are taking place, with Liam Byrne leading for Labour, but it isn't clear that Peter is hearing the same music that we are, or that it's even from the same band. Mind you, given that Ed Balls has cast himself in the Gordon Brown role pre-1997, I'm not sure which band he is listening to. It might not be his. I am, however, intrigued by the notion that he thinks that the Liberal Democrats could split, and even more intrigued by the potential thought processes that lead him to such a conclusion.
Liberal Democrats are quite a fractious bunch, by comparison with the Labour and Conservative Parties. Our open policy-making, our fixation with internal democracy, these are things that place squarely on the record where our disagreements are. In many ways, they make us stronger by sketching out the ideological boundaries beyond which we will not be dragged, by sending a message to our leaders. It also makes huge falling outs less likely.
That balance of power is a restriction, and a protection, all in one. It makes us more coherent as a campaigning force, and makes us less, not more, likely to split. Perhaps it has been too long since Peter split from the Liberal Party, and perhaps it was too easy for him to leave, because he fails to understand the loyalty that our activists retain.
And we are not alone. Our supposed intellectual schisms are as nothing compared to the Old Labour/Nu Labour split of the Blair years, and yet they hung together. You see, political parties are like families, the more time you spend with them, the more comfortable you become, making the thought of giving it up for an uncertain future rather harder.
There are those who join a party, have a look around, and realise that it isn't for them. They either go somewhere else, or they give up. There are those for whom a political party is simply a vehicle for their personal ambition - they tend to become obvious sooner rather than later. But organised mass breakaways are rare.
So, if Mr Hain is relying on a Liberal Democrat schism to allow Labour back into power, he may be forced to wait some time. A split is possible, but unlikely, and many of our social liberals don't entirely trust Labour anyway. Of course, some of their social liberals might want to find a home in the Liberal Democrats...