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David Cameron's particular issue with his ultra-modernising wing

by Paul Goodman

The usual view is that David Cameron's biggest Party management problem is with his right.  If one leaves aside the looming question of MPs pay and rations, this take is correct.  This Commons is already more rebellious than the last one, and the main list of troubles is familiar: the EU, criminal justice policy, prisoner voting and human rights.

Yet the Prime Minister also has a particular problem with elements of his ultra-modernising wing.  The Independent carries a story this morning based on a briefing by a Cabinet Minister, who told the paper yesterday -

"One scenario is an informal pact in which the two Coalition partners would help each other where they could. Voters aren't stupid. They can work out who is best placed to win in their constituency – as they did in Oldham. It wouldn't have to be a formal, top-down pact, which would be very difficult to impose on local associations in any case."

"Are we going to go hell for leather to defeat Chris Huhne [the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary] in Eastleigh [where the Tories are in second place]? No. I wouldn't have any part in that. I am not going to campaign for a Tory victory there."

Perhaps only one Cabinet Minister's to blame - repeating this view from time to time to different papers.  Or maybe there's more than one.  Who knows?  But either way, this talk, which aims to help the Coalition, actually harms it - unnerving both Conservative MPs, who want to see a Conservative majority after the next election, and most Liberal Democrats too, for whom a little distance from their partners would be welcome.

David Cameron isn't responsible for what Tory backbenchers say: if any want to float electoral pacts, that's their affair.  But what Ministers do is his business - after all, he appointed them.  Which is why he should remind them, in the best interests of the smooth running of government, to stop speculating about what may happen in a few years when they've got work to get on with now.


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