Will the Tories do a deal with the nationalists to freeze the Lib Dems out?

According to this morning’s FT, the Conservatives are so anxious not to have to work with the Liberal Democrats that they are eying a post-election deal with the SNP, Plaid Cymru and even the DUP. Worried that Cameron will fail to gain an overall majority, Tory strategists are drawing up contingency plans with almost anything on offer to avoid having to face up to electoral reform.

Both the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists have made it clear that their price for working with any of the three main parties at Westminster would be a relative increase in the funding allocated to Scotland and Wales. The DUP are likewise going to seek more money for the Northern Ireland Assembly. This will not be easy for a government attempting to reduce the country’s huge deficit, whilst attemping not to upset its shire heartlands.

Even after 7th May, the Conservatives’ parliamentary party will be overwhelmingly English constituency based. The party has complained in the past about the votes of the Labour government’s Scottish and Welsh MPs being used to push through policies that only affect England. How ironic if a Conservative government were to put itself in hock to MPs from the those countries – but of a different party? And what will the Conservatives’ official election partners in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Unionists, think if a deal is done with the DUP?

The fact that the Conservatives would rather do such deals than have to contemplate electoral reform gives some idea about how committed the party is to real change.

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15 Comments

  • This isnt surprising at all. While Cameron has talked the talk on “reform” and “change”, we all know that in reality change is the last thing on Conservatives’ minds, save the simply change from Labour to Conservative in government.

  • If the deal is in Scottish, Welsh and NI interests then why not ?

    No coaltion though. Support would need to be given on a issue by issue basis for concessions granted and it keeps the nasty Lib dems out of the game.

    The Scottish, NI and Welsh tail wagging the British dog – I like it !

  • A deal comprising of the Conservative and Unionist Party (now with added Unionism), the DUP, the SNP and Plaid. What happened to David Cameron’s “I will never be neutral on the Union”? Is that just something he says to attract unionist voters in Northern Ireland to the Ulster Conservative and Unionist New Force (UCUNF (and I am not making that acronym up))?

    I personally am not committed one way or the other to the union, but it is hard to see how such a deal would work. I can see a deal between the Conservatives and the nationalists, the Tories will do anything to get power, ditto the Conservatives and the DUP. I can’t it working with all of them, though.

  • Jeremy Hargreaves 28th Apr '10 - 12:04pm

    There are so many reasons this could never work – Scots and Welsh demands for more money, demands for more devolution (particularly in Scotland where the SNP government put real independence on the agenda), and the genetic resistance among the Conservative party to these people wagging the English dog, that you mention – but surely the greatest is that the SNP and PC are fundamentally left-wing parties, and a Conservative government would be a fundamentally right-wing one.

  • The SNP tie-up would be interesting, given the amount of times the SNP talk about Thatcher’s decimation of Scotland (Salmond did it in an election broadcast last week.) There’s also a viscereal hatred of the Tories within the SNP that is probably equal to their dislike of Labour, so this would be manna for us given the Scottish elections next year.

    It would also support the claims that there’s already an unwritten coalition between the SNP and Tories in Holyrood – just look how often they vote together…

  • You say this “gives some idea about how committed the party is to real change”.

    Can we really say that the Conservatives are the only obstacle to change?

    If there is a choice between electoral reform and improving the NHS, will the people on the doorstep really opt for the former? Just because it is a big Lib Dem thing, it does not mean that the people are crying out for it.

    Should it really take 3 months to get to see an NHS specialist?

  • Christine Headley 28th Apr '10 - 1:50pm

    In the same way as a Heath-Thorpe axis was doomed in 1974 (too many Nats), surely this is doomed to failure. The various Nats, in their smaller ponds, have about as many MPs as we do currently. In order to hold a decent balance of power, we need a significant number of gains, which would be almost impossible for them in Scotland, Wales and NI.

  • “David Cameron’s campaign team is exploring the possibility of a deal with unionist politicians in Northern Ireland and Scottish and Welsh nationalist MPs in the event of a hung parliament, in an attempt to avoid giving in to Liberal Democrat demands for electoral reform.” So say George Parker, Andrew Bolger and John Murray Brown of the FT.

    Presumably this makes then the hung parliament party. I presume it means hanging – together – with UUs, Plaid and Scot Nats.

  • Don’t be too sure that the Conservatives will need to do a deal with anyone. Imagine what Gordon Brown’s “bigot” gaffe will do to the vote in the twenty or so key Labour marginals the Tories are targeting.
    Might not there now be a danger that a direct red-blue swing will rob the British people of this chance of a referendum on electoral reform?

  • Vote Tory, get SNP/PC/DUP? OR Vote SNP/PC/DUP, get Tories?

  • George Kendall 29th Apr '10 - 1:15am

    If Labour collapse to a bad third, and the Tories have to do a deal with the nats and unionists to form a government, that would be very bad for Britain, but might be good news for the Lib Dems.

    The Tories would have to make serious cuts to deal with the deficit. If they are sparing Scotland and Northern Ireland from the pain, despite their already generous subsidies, that will mean even heavier cuts in England. And those suffering will be furious if the pain is not being shared by everyone.

    There would be a backlash. The question is, who would benefit from that backlash? There’s a good case it would be the Lib Dems. In which case, there’d be a chance of a LibDem majority in the following election.

    As Labour would have more seats, though less votes, there’s a chance that a higher profile in parliament would give Labour a platform to present itself as the opposition. But my guess is they’d still be tarnished by the mess they’ve led us into, and soft Tories would be far more likely to swtich LibDem.

    In the present dire economic situation, there are no easy options, but my preference is a deal with either Labour or the Tories, and a referendum on PR. Might be better, politically, if it were a pact, rather than a coalition, but there’s arguments either way.

    Any such pact would carry horrendous political risks. We’d share the odium of the severe cuts that are going to be necessary, but might not get the credit for slowly getting the country out of the mess. And, unless Clegg were PM, there would always be the risk of the other party shafting us, and calling an election at a time of their choosing.

    – George

  • Paul McKeown 29th Apr '10 - 2:17pm

    It’s a joke, Elfin Llywd, Alex Salmond co-operating with David Cameron. Why are we even crediting this nonsense? Guff dreamed up by the feverish imaginations of a desperate journo. If the Tories thought seriously about this, it just shows how deep their pit of despair has been.

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