By Paul Goodman
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It may collapse before then, of course, though I believe that this is unlikely. But providing it doesn't, we tend to believe that there is only one other possible outcome for the Government: that it continues, more or less as now, until 2015. However, matters aren't quite that simple.
Roll forward the clock by three years to 2014, and imagine that the Coalition has survived. There is a year before the next election. The two Coalition partners are already looking ahead to it. Policy work is being done. The manifesto process for both parties is under way. The polls show whatever they show.
But whatever they show, the Liberal Democrats won't have given up hope of holding the balance of power in a hung Parliament, even if their Commons representation looks to be decimated. They have no other short-term strategic aim (and no medium-term one either, given the AV referendum result).
In four years' time, then, if not earlier, Liberal Democrat members of the Downing Street policy unit will have little motivation to work on new Government policies - since they can't be implemented within the remaining twelve months.
They will start looking for other job opportunities. So will other Liberal Democrat functionaries within the Government, such as special advisers. Their Conservative equivalents will do likewise, especially if the polls are bad for the party. You may say: this sort of thing happens before every election, so what's different?
By Paul Goodman
David Cameron was desparate to avoid governing with the Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg was keen to do a deal with Gordon Brown, because their personal relationship is strong. The Labour leader behaved selflessly throughout the Coalition negotiations, putting constitutional requirements before his Party's interests.
To cause a sensation, David Laws new book, serialised in today's Mail on Sunday, would have had to spring a surprise - and say the above, or something very like it, garnished with details of spectacular rows and personal tensions during the talks between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat teams.
Instead, it tells us nothing significant that we don't already know. There are a few memorable snippets. Peter Mandelson, responding to the Liberal Democrats' mansion tax plan, said: "Surely the rich have suffered enough?" Ed Miliband went out to make the tea during the Labour-Liberal Democrat talks.
Brown's interminable phone lectures wrung a cry of "That man!" from Nick Clegg. Miliband, Harriet Harman and Ed Balls - in particular - didn't want a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, and effectively sabotaged any prospect of a pact.
That all these awkward details involve Labour is deliberate. In views and outlook, Laws was the most right-wing Liberal Democrat Cabinet Minister, and one of the main hinges that joined the Coalition together. He's out to present the enterprise in the most favourable way possible.
The Tory membership is split - according to a ConHome survey - as to whether David Cameron's negotiating team got a good deal from the Liberal Democrats. The Mail on Sunday reports how key Liberal Democrats think the Tories were willing to pay a high price in order to get a deal. Danny Alexander, part of Clegg's negotiating team, told his fellow MPs: “If they are offering up all this, is there anything they will not do?”’
A controversial interpretation of the Tory negotiations giveaway is the belief that Cameron wanted to 'stuff the Right'. 47% of Tory members subscribe to this view.
While I don't discount this motivation I'd give more weight to another interpretation. Interviewed for The Sunday Telegraph Michael Gove repeats what I have been told three or four times by Tory insiders in the last few days:
"We have five years when Conservatives can vanquish some of the myths that have grown up about us."
Looking at the failure of the party to win among three key voter groups; (1) Scotland, (2) in constituencies with large numbers of people dependent upon the state for their income and (3) among ethnic minority communities, Tory strategists believe that there is only so much reassurance that can be offered in opposition. Only by being in government can the Conservatives prove to these three key sections of the electorate that they are not two-headed monsters.
The difficulty with this strategy is, of course, the fiscal crisis. The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition will be taking very tough decisions that may (however unfairly) only reinforce misperceptions.
Cameron's visit to Scotland on Friday - the first of his premiership - confirms his determination to avoid a London/Edinburgh rupture but, in narrow electoral terms, Cameron might find it easier to win more English seats with over-taxed private sector workers than Scottish and northern seats with large public sector populations. Within ConservativeHome's General Election Review I, today, expand on my recommendation that the Scottish Conservatives become functionally independent of the rest of the Conservative Party.
The initial coalition agreement covers 12 areas (a final document will be published in due course covering other areas not covered in this document)
Here are the key points:
1. Deficit Reduction
There seemed to be quite a chemistry between the pair, as they published the coalition agreement between the respective parties. Here are a few of the key points (not verbatim)
Cameron said that the coalition was founded on three key principles: freedom, fairness and responsibility.
He said that later today the first meeting of the new National Security Council would take place and that as he continued appointing ministers, there would be representation for the Lib Dems at every level of government.
He said the deal was a demoinstration of a new politics, working in the national interest rather than just party interest.
Answering questions, the Prime Minister said that the pair had looked at the option of a minority government on a confidence and supply basis, but that they agreed that it was "so uninspiring" which would not allow them to do what they came into politics to achieve and wouldn't mean anything. "Let's aim for something bigger and better", he said he felt. "This [coalition] is so much better than the alternative".
Cameron confirmed that Clegg would deputise for him at PMQs if ever he couldn't make it and that Clegg would have an office within the Cabinet Office and be responsible for political reform.
He was also reminded that he once said his favourite joke was "NIck Clegg". Cameorn admitted that everyone is going to have things they've said thrown back at them but if he needs to eat some humble pie and east some words he's previously said, he couldnlt think of a better diet.
"Thank you for all your patience over these past few days. I know that you must have found it frustrating not knowing exactly what was going on while negotiations continued. However, the great news is that after 13 years, our party is back in government.
So first, I want to thank again for all your hard work and dedication, not just over the past few weeks but over the past few years. I literally could not have done this without you. We can be immensely proud of how far we have come from our defeat in 2005.
We have seen the election of nearly 100 extra MPs, we have gained more seats than in any election since 1931 and we are now the party of government once again. No-one should underestimate the scale of our achievement in such a short space of time, and it would not have been possible without your support and commitment to the cause.
Second, I want to tell you what I can about the agreement we have made with our new partners in government, the Liberal Democrats. As I said after the election last week, more than anything else Britain needs strong, stable and decisive government at this point in our history. And it was in the national interest that we achieved this on a secure basis.
This is why I made a big, open and comprehensive offer to the Liberal Democrats last Friday. I signalled, from the very start of the negotiations, that we had to respect the verdict of the electorate and work together to find solutions to the profound problems facing our nation: the debt crisis, our deep social problems and our broken political system.
Today, we have achieved this much-needed agreement, overcoming political differences to forge a new government in the national interest. Of course, we must recognise that all coalitions are about compromise. This one is no different. And I want to take this opportunity to reassure about what was agreed.
The agreement commits the next government to a significantly accelerated reduction in the budget deficit, to cut £6 billion of government waste this financial year and to stop the jobs tax. The agreement also allows us to carry out key elements of the reform agenda we outlined in our manifesto - an agenda vital to turning our country round - including welfare and school reform. Moreover, we have protected our nuclear deterrent. And there will be no amnesty for illegal immigrants, nor the handover of any additional powers to the EU.
Of course, the agreement also reflects the key priorities and objectives of the Liberal Democrats. This includes fairer funding in education, a fairer tax system and political reform - including a referendum on changing the voting system to the alternative vote.
But the past few days have not just been about compromise. What was clear as talks progressed is the common ground between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. And that is displayed in this agreement, with our commitment to building a green economy, decentralising power and protecting civil liberties - including scrapping ID cards.
We campaigned on the belief that we're all in this together - and can only solve our problems together to build a stronger, more responsible society. I am confident that the coming together of two political parties to form one strong government marks a new era for Britain and for British politics. Now, let's get down to work."
Stood alongside his wife Samantha, David Cameron, Britain's new Prime Minister, confirmed that he will be forming a coalition government with Nick Clegg. They have agreed to put party differences aside, he said, and work for the good of the nation.
On this blog we plan to list the terms of the LibCon deal as they revealed to us. Only those concessions in bold are confirmed.Click here to view ConHome'e extensive summary of the deal
1.15pm The FT is suggesting that the Lib Dems have forced to the Conservatives to drop their commitment to real terms increases in NHS spending.
9.50am Laura Kuenssberg tweets that "Lib dems also have a promise of elected house of Lords using PR early in the Parliament"
Wednesday am: More details of the coalition deal are emerging:
8.45pm: Nick Robinson says Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have agreed fixed term parliaments with immediate effect.
7pm: PoliticsHome is reporting that the Liberal Democrats have dropped their plans for an amnesty for immigrants.
6.45pm: George Pascoe-Watson reports that the Liberal Democrats will have SIX places in the Cabinet. At the weekend the talk was of three. Team Cameron have had to give a lot away.
6.45pm: We know that Hague has offered a referendum on AV. Douglas Carswell has blogged against this concession.
6.45pm: Robert Peston reports that "The Tories will adopt the Lib Dem plan to increase the tax-free allowance on income tax to £10,000. A meaningful initial rise in the allowance would come quickly, with a clear timetable announced to get to the full £10,000." I've always really liked this policy and will now be interested to see how it will be funded.
The Tories are optimistic that they'll get an agreement to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats rather than support for a minority government. They think this will be the most stable government possible. Clegg will be Deputy Prime Minister.
George Pascoe-Watson has tweeted that the LibDems will have six Cabinet places in all. SIX! Fraser Nelson, in contrast, says "Senior Tories say most likely outcome is minority gvt, with libdems in confidence-and-supply deal."
I'm not one of those people who think it was duplicitous for the LibDems to talk to Labour. I think it was important for Team Clegg to look like they had explored all possibilities and it should be said that a LibLab pact is certainly not dead yet.
If, if, if, if, if a LibCon deal does now go ahead - and the FT Westminster blog is suggesting it is most likely to be a formal coalition - then the big learning I take from the last 24 hours is that there are many LibDems - led by Lord Ashdown - who don't have their hearts in it. The country needs stability but I fear that any arrangement will be vulnerable to the smallest of trigger events.
I fear this all sets up Labour quite nicely to be the only party of opposition to a weak government, responsible for taking very difficult decisions.
2.15pm: On the BBC News Channel Michael Gove says any deal will ideally include Liberal Democrats sitting in the Cabinet alongside Conservative ministers.