Conservative Diary

« Duncan and Maude both down sharply in first shadow cabinet satisfaction survey since expenses-gate | Main | Labour fall to third place for first time in 22 years »

Brown considers PR deal with Liberal Democrats to end likelihood of Tories ever governing alone again

James Forsyth is right.  In a few days' time we could be in the middle of a Labour leadership crisis.  Britain's governing party could finish third in Thursday's elections.  Brown has been incredibly quiet recently - as Iain Martin has blogged - and Tory insiders think he may be planning something big.

The Telegraph's Andrew Porter is speculating that Labour might bring Liberal Democrats into his team to shake the kaleidoscope.  Labour backbenchers wouldn't haven't tolerated that even a few months ago but things are so desperate they might swallow it.  Vince Cable would enjoy being Chancellor - if only for a year - but the Liberal Democrats as a whole would need a bigger incentive to throw their lot in with a dying government.  That's why Alan Johnson's suggestion of a referendum on proportional representation (the case against which was ably put by Graeme Archer earlier) is so intriguing.  PR would give the Liberal Democrats an almost permanent place in British government and they would be willing to pay a high short-term price to see it introduced.  Some Labour strategists also think that PR might tear the Conservative coalition apart.

Another game changer already proposed by Nick Clegg is a referendum on British membership of the European Union.  Labour could hold both referenda on the same day of the next General Election.  They hope that the EU vote, in particular, would cause serious tension in Conservative ranks.  We've seen Tory grandees misbehaving today ahead of Thursday's elections and many Tories (including me) would side with an 'out' vote.

There are, of course, big risks with these ploys.  Many Labour MPs (notably David Blunkett) oppose PR.  It might look too political and backfire on Labour... but, but, but when you are at 21% in the polls you don't have much to lose.  Indeed, the suggestion put by one political insider to me is that Brown will present his parting gift to the Labour Party as an electoral system that denies the Conservatives the likelihood of ever governing alone again.

Tim Montgomerie


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.