The Daily Telegraph is reporting today that David Cameron is planning for a second coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
The Prime Minister has held private talks with Cabinet ministers over new Conservative Party rules which would make it easier to strike another deal.
This is all very sensible. In the absolute monarchy mitigated by occasional regicide that is the Conservative Party, tighter rules to clamp down on the backbench naysayers to a coalition would be very prudent, just in case.
Under the plans, backbench Tories would be consulted on the new power-sharing agreement with the final text being put to them in a vote.
Oh hang on. This looks like the first stage of the Liberal Democrats’ Triple Lock. This is an opportunity for the party to block an embryonic coalition from forming in the first place. It is not so much planning a coalition, as planning for one.
There was no formal consultation [on the coalition agreement] with Conservative MPs or members, something that some ministers believe has encouraged dissent among backbenchers. Conservative whips estimate that at least 30 of the party’s 304 MPs are “irreconcilables”, having never accepted the coalition deal with the Lib Dems and not feeling obliged to support Mr Cameron.
The Tory Cabinet minister said senior Conservatives are studying the Lib Dem approach to agreeing a deal. “[The Lib Dems] had meeting after meeting about the deal. Yes, it took a bit longer, but it meant that every one of them was actively signed up to the Coalition, and that’s meant they’ve been quite disciplined, all things considered,” the minister said.
I do wonder whether the coalition agreement we have would have survived this process. Cameron is clearly more tractable than the “irreconcilables”, but, perhaps more importantly, he may not have survived as leader to a second general election, which may have delivered a majority to a more hardline Conservative leader. Should this situation recur, rejecting any coalition agreement would be a no-brainer for many hardline Tories.
Yes, clearly more buy-in from the parliamentary party would be good for Tory party management, but might not a narrow majority lead to a more polarised and restless party?
The Daily Mail also covers the story here suggesting that
David Cameron is plotting to make Tory MPs sign a new coalition with the Liberal Democrats, it was claimed last night.
How dastardly! But just 4 years ago, it was unthinkable for the Conservatives or Labour to contemplate coalition, never mind make rules or write manifestos that anticipate that possibility. This is a profound culture change, and it should be no surprise that the Mail and Telegraph are so uncomfortable with it. Will we see anything similar from Labour?