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Mainstream Conservatives can't be expected to sit quietly while Liberal Conservatives prepare for ongoing coalition

Tim Montgomerie

A few commentators have responded to my argument for Mainstream Conservatism. They include Janet Daley, Iain Martin, Peter Hoskin, Alex Massie and on Comment, Graeme Archer. The latest to join the debate is Platform10's Fiona Melville. At Coffee House she writes that in setting up a distinction between liberal and mainstream conservatism I'm "setting up unnecessary dividing lines". Andrew Boff made a similar comment on yesterday's thread defining Mainstream Conservatism. This was my reply to Fiona in the Coffee House comment thread:

"In the language of the playground, I didn't start this! I've only joined a debate initiated by Nick Boles and Sir John Major. They have started an argument in favour of continuing coalition after 2015. I'm simply arguing for a majority Tory government, pursuing mainstream conservatism. In ongoing alliance with the LibDems we don't get mainstream conservative positions on Europe, crime, tax and public service reform. We only get the liberal half of the 'politics of and'."

My wake up moment was a fortnight ago. I sat having a cup of tea with a senior member of the government. He was telling me why he couldn't achieve progress on a major issue because of Liberal Democrat resistance. The Tory leadership regularly plays this card whenever a Tory MP wants something on tax or crime or human right laws. They blame the LibDems. Fair enough but when Nicholas Boles MP (very close to Francis Maude) and Sir John Major (who has often been used by David Cameron to float tactics) start arguing for ongoing coalition I smell a rat.

I sense we are moving from one position - 'it is a great shame we didn't win a majority' - to a new position - 'coalition government is superior to Tory government'. 79% of Tory members don't want this. It's not unfair that we stand up and oppose the Boles/Major proposition, not least because I suspect they aren't acting unilaterally.

PS I have one other moan about Fiona's piece. She burdens me with the straw man argument that "if only the party had been “more conservative”, it would have won a majority". She clearly didn't read my election review. It only contained one conclusion which can be fairly presented as urging a Right-wards move. The main reasons we lost the election were about professionalism and proper process rather than ideology (see here). I would, however, argue that the liberal conservatives' embarrassment about traditional Tory positions on immigration, Europe and crime is misplaced. Those positions are shared by big majorities of the British people.

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