55% of Tory members are open to non-aggression pact in Lib/Con marginals
On CentreRight last week Mark Field MP raised the possibility of a non-aggression pact between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in some seats where the Coalition partners are first and second-placed:
"Even if AV is on the statute book I reckon that defending a record in government will necessitate Conservatives giving most Liberal Democrat incumbents a free run in their seats. By way of reciprocation in the dozen or so Conservative-held seats most vulnerable to the Liberal Democrats, candidates from the latter party would also stand down. Conservatives might also enable Liberal Democrats in marginal battles with Labour (in Scotland, the North and parts of London) a potentially easier fight by withdrawing from the fray. Who is to say that dozens of candidates will not take the hustings as ‘Lib Dems with Conservative coalition support’?"
I tested support for electoral co-operation in last week's ConservativeHome survey*. As expected most members would prefer the party to fight every seat and there is overwhelming opposition to fighting every seat as 'Coalition candidates'. Interestingly, however, a small majority of members are willing to concede that a pact "might be necessary" in seats where Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are in direct competition:
I discuss the results in an article for today's Times. I note some of the big downsides...
"What’s the point of having a Conservative organisation in a seat such as Torbay if it is not allowed to challenging the sitting Liberal Democrat MP? If the Tories don’t fight every seat, the United Kingdom Independence Party or a new right-of-centre party could use the abandoned territory as launch pads for local, European and other elections."
...but also why talk of electoral co-operation won't go away:
"The Tory leadership knows that a non-aggression pact would be huge for Mr Clegg, particularly if voters reject electoral reform. A recent Populus survey of marginal seats found that Conservatives would unseat nearly every Liberal Democrat MP if the election was held now. Most would be ousted even under AV. The polls may, of course, have shifted by the time a decision is necessary but such a deal would cement the coalition like nothing else. It would ensure that at least half Mr Clegg’s parliamentary party was bound tightly into the coalition’s success, freeing up campaigning resources for the anti-Labour battleground."
Read the full piece (£).
* 2,029 members took part in the survey from 28th July to 31st July