Conservative Diary

« Is Britain a centre left country? No. | Main | Tories send fundraising letter to 300,000 homes and roadtest key messages »

"George Osborne has always said that if the Coalition lasts two years, it will make it for five years. All depends on Year Two."

Tim Montgomerie

The quote at the top of this post comes from Fraser Nelson's column in today's News of the World (£).

It's certainly true that these elections are going to be the most difficult of the Parliament for the Liberal Democrats as I wrote earlier in the week:

"The Lib Dems are facing a disastrous set of Scottish, Welsh and local election results next week. It should be noted however that these are the most testing set of elections the Lib Dems are likely to face in this parliament. All the big left-leaning electorates (including Sheffield and Newcastle) are voting in this cycle and these are the electorates which have deserted Clegg in greatest numbers. Add in the AV vote - where Yes is trailing by up to 18% - and the first electoral test for the Lib Dems-in-Coalition are the worst test. Next year it's Boris v Ken and the Lib Dems will be a sideshow. When the next county councils are elected there is actually limited scope for some recovery for Britain's third party."

Fraser writes that the Coalition partners are going to survive the testing aftermath of Thursday with a new adult and more detached relationship:

"[Clegg will] still be Deputy Prime Minister but he'll make gentle criticisms about Cameron and the Tories, to calm mutinous Lib Dem troops. I'm told that he has been given a "licence to snipe". He'll attack Cameron for small things: Language, emphasis, football team. And in the Commons, Clegg will drop his nodding dog act and start to make faces when Cameron says things he doesn't like. There will be controlled explosions. They won't disagree at all over the deficit, but will clash over NHS reform. Clegg will try to send a new message: "We're in this coalition, but don't think we enjoy it. We find the Tories creepy, and a little bit nasty.""

In the Mail on Sunday James Forsyth pours call water on the idea of PR for the Lords, noting that Tory MPs are "massively against" it (see Jesse Norman's cautionary post for ConservativeHome earlier this week). That may be true and it may also be true that the Liberal Democrats can't bring the government down without facing meltdown in any subsequent election. That's not Cameron's key worry, however. He knows that it is likely that the Lib Dems will stay in Coalition with him (until, in my opinion, the final third of the parliament when they will be aggressively independent). His worry is that Clegg will be replaced as Liberal Democrat leader and any extra concessions he gives are designed to bolster him personally.

Most Tories don't want any more ground given away but if Cameron adds victory in the AV vote to his victory over Boris Becker he'll be in the strongest position with his own backbenchers for over a year. He will have more wiggle room than seemed possible only a few weeks ago.


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