LibLink: Stephen Tall: It’s 8 May 2015, Cameron’s won a majority and here’s some advice from his Chief Whip

Our Stephen Tall has been turning his hand to fiction in his regular column for Conservative Home.  As he says on his own site:

It’s a piece of fiction, not least because it imagines a scenario in which the Tories have won an outright majority. That starting point appeared to confuse ConHome’s Ukip-infused readers, who didn’t know whether to laugh or cry in the comments.

You do actually have to read the whole thing to see all the well-crafted little digs in there, and you can do so here.

Here are some of the highlights:

The first piece of advice – keep the Lib Dems on board:

This is, I know, a priority you share. I believe you spoke to Nick Clegg last night to offer your congratulations to him – I imagine he was a relieved man! Still, we always knew those ‘cockroaches’ would be tough to unseat. In the circumstances, it is in neither your interest nor his to continue a formal coalition. Our backbenches would never wear it, any more than would his annoyingly democratic party (why do they allow their members such a say over their policy and direction? Our way is so much simpler).

However, your majority is too tight to ignore them completely. We will almost certainly need their votes, and soon, if you are to avoid being held to ransom by professional malcontents like Chope, Nuttall, Bone and Hollobone. They may sound like a firm of solidly provincial solicitors, but you and I both know the mayhem they are quite capable of wreaking. So let’s talk to the Lib Dems and see what business we might be able to do together. Frankly, though, I am not hopeful for the reasons set out below.

Then the letter turns more from giving advice to pointing out the high concentration of poison in the chalice. Cameron is advised to appoint some Tory rightwingers to the Cabinet. That’s not entirely compatible with winning Liberal Democrat support on key votes:

 I propose you promote a mix of youth and experience. Among the latter, bring back Liam Fox (yes, I know: but he’ll be less trouble inside the tent), hold on to Iain Duncan Smith and Owen Paterson, and resurrect Peter Lilley and John Redwood. Of the new guys, look to the Free Enterprise Group: Dominic Raab, Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel (shame about Aiden Burley) – at least you know they’re signed up to working all hours of the day.

I know you’d prefer to surround yourself with pragmatists, MPs who’ll put ‘getting things done’ ahead of ideological zealotry. But I’m afraid those days are over. Reconcile yourself now to immoderation in all things: that’s the future (unless you can get the Lib Dems on side).

There is a lovely wee twist at the end, too, but I’ll leave you to find that out for yourself. It might not be Pulitzer Prize winning stuff, but this piece has a very clever subtlety to it.


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  • It would be in the interests of the Conservatives to keep Clegg and his coterie “on board” as this piece of fiction suggests but not to keep the right wing barmies at bay. It would be in the interests of the Conservatives because they know that it would enable themtofinish the job and kill off the Liberal Democrats completely. However big or small a Tory majority might be ( or a Labour. Majority ) it would be in the interests of Conservatives to continue to hollow out their main opponents in many of their seats. Clegg’s continued failure as party leader is perfect for the Tories, that is why they want him to stay.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Feb '14 - 1:23pm

    I’ve asked before and I’ll ask again – why is a Liberal Democrat writing for Conservative Home. Do they have Labour activists writing for them – even Blairites?

    Supporting a tory mouthpiece is sending the message that we have more in common with them than we do with the Labour Party, which isn’t brilliant if we entertain hopes of a future coalition with them.

  • Edward Thompson 14th Feb '14 - 1:24pm

    I think we should sit tight in this situation. We don’t have to do anything. I say let the right wing of the tory party wreak as much havoc as they like

  • Bill Chapman 14th Feb '14 - 3:18pm

    A Conservative government in May 20-15 really is a fantasy. The Wythenshawe result shows something of the public mood. It is an even greater fantasy to suppose there will be Liberal Democrat MPs for them to talk to.

  • Alisdair McGregor 14th Feb '14 - 11:04pm

    @Bill Chapman: Wythenshaw says damn all about the public mood. Governments do not win by-elections.

  • An alternative outcome (and much more likely than Stephen’s near-fantasy) would be

    “Prime minister, congratulations on your overall majority in the General Election. You have successfully seen of all Scotland’s Labour and Nationalist MPs through your brilliant interference in the Independence Referendum and the liberals (a small l for a small party, if you will excuse the pun) in England and Wales are seriously weakened. However the extreme right of the party remain hostile to you. You need to further consolidate your position.

    In the last parliament, you brilliantly exploited the naivety of the Liberals to gain power and see off the threatened leadership challenge that would have followed if you had failed. The liberals are now seriously weakened, but they are not dead. Nick’s position looks to be untenable, but a significant minority of his party still support him because you let them into government. Nick is also incredibly loyal to you. It would look to be churlish if you dropped him immediately after your triumph.

    My suggestion would be for you to invite him, and a few well chosen supporters, to remain in government with Nick in the same role as before. You can’t call him DPM, but Cabinet Minister for Constitutional reform will appeal to his vanities, and leaving him to continue to mess up that whole area will consign it to the rubbish bin for a generation. Also it will cement his position as the only Liberal to lead his party into government and keep it there, and give you a means to bat everything the loony right propose into the long grass.

    Of course the final denouement will be that it will condemn the liberals to a further five years of purgaTory (excuse the pun again prime Minister) which will finally kill them off, possibly for ever. Overall, you will have then succeeded in the great Conservative plan, instigated in the 1930s to eliminate all social liberals once and for all from English politics. We only failed last time by a taxi full, but this time with the right National Liberals kept in power I believe you will succeed.”

  • Nick Tregoning 15th Feb '14 - 2:45pm

    Surely the Tories could reach an accommodation with Labour? I realise they are making radical noises at the moment, but that’s in Opposition. As I am old enough to remember, every time they have obtained office from the ’60’s onwards they move to the right with a barely-concealed sigh of relief.

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