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David Cameron insists the Tories and Lib Dems will fight the next general election as independent parties - but appears not to entirely rule out a pact of some kind

By Jonathan Isaby

JI interviews DC Yesterday I wrote about how David Cameron used his conference interview with ConservativeHome to call on Tory backbenchers not to "wreck" the AV Referendum Bill.

The other subject which Tim and I discussed with the Prime Minister was that of the relationship between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at the next election.

This morning Martin Vickers MP used a Platform article here to moot the idea of single Coalition candidates.

Tim and I asked Mr Cameron whether he foresaw any kind of electoral pact between the two Coalition partners at the next general election, due in 2015. Here's what he had to say:

"My view is that we should fight the election as independent parties. Let's be clear, we don't always agree with each other. We sit round, we disagree frequently and we have to make the coalition involved debate and discuss - hopefully rational and reasonable discussion - to come to conclusions, but there are lots of things we don't agree about.

"But I think we're making it work very well given the different political traditions. There are lots of areas where we do agree - greenery, local government, decentralisation, welfare reform, education. It's been heartening how many areas we have been able to agree on, but there are some areas where there are disagreements and we have to manage those.

"So my view is that we are separate parties, we will fight elections as separate parties."

Tim Montgomerie: So do you rule out a pact in, say, Lib/Con marginals?

"As I say we will fight as independent parties, but my feeling about all this is that it is very early days in the government. I want this to work for five years and to have a five-year parliament and five-year government and I think, as I was explaining actually at the National Conservative Convention, I hope, I think we'll go into the election as separate parties - hopefully we'll be quite polite about each other because we'll be defending a common record."

Jonathan Isaby: But you will be going into that election saying 'I don't want to work with them after the election as I want an outright majority'?

"We'll be going into the election fighting for an outright Conservative majority, just as the Lib Dems will be fighting for as many votes and seats as they can get. I think obviously there is already growing a warmer relationship between the parties because we're trying to achieve things together. If you watched the Lib Dem conference, it wasn't just saying 'look at the things we got for the Lib Dems,' they were saying 'look at what the government is doing'.

Whilst I have never thought that there was any possibility of both parties remaining anything but independent entities, I did get the impression from his answers that Mr Cameron is leaving wriggle room for a potential arrangement or deal of some kind come the general election. Or am I reading too much into the way he answered Tim's question, ie but not replying with a straight "Yes"?


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