Shane Frith is director of the classical-liberal think-tank Progressive Vision. He has worked for Conservative MPs in the UK and National Party MPs in his native New Zealand. He is a former chairman of the International Young Democrat Union, linking young people involved in centre-right political parties worldwide, including the Conservative Party.
Three years ago, Mark Littlewood and I established Progressive Vision, a campaigning think tank which brought together a coalition of classical liberals from both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. We did this because we recognised that true liberal DNA, if somewhat suppressed, existed in both parties. Indeed, both parties even share a hero in the form of Winston Churchill who served in both Liberal and Conservative governments.
As a Conservative, I would have preferred to see a solid majority for my party, but even three years ago it was clear to see that there was a real risk we might need to work with the Liberal Democrats to undo the damage of the disastrous Labour administration. Having seen coalition governments at work in New Zealand I knew that it was possible for supporters of different parties to work together for the good of the nation.
While supporters of these two parties disagree on much (notably Europe), there is much common ground. The Lib Dems I work with are generally described as "Orange Bookers", whose policy recommendations are often more ambitious than those of the Conservative Party. The Orange Book called for ambitious reform of the NHS, which while not as bold as Dan Hannan’s proposals for health savings accounts advocated in "The Plan", shamed the Conservative Party’s official position. Even in the Lib Dem manifesto, they bravely refused to “ring fence” the NHS from spending cuts.