Coalition looks solid but little support for an electoral pact

At ippr’s main fringe event at Tory conference, the idea of an electoral pact with the Liberal Democrats met with a pretty cool response from Tory delegates.

Our guest writer is Tim Finch, director of communications at the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr)

At ippr’s main fringe event at the Conservative party conference, Nick Boles, the leading Conservative advocate of an electoral pact with the Liberal Democrats met with a pretty cool response from Tory delegates – and a polite brush off from former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

Mr Boles said that a marriage of convenience had become “a marriage of true minds” and in his view it would look very odd if having worked for more than four and half years with, say, Chris Huhne, as climate change secretary, the Conservatives then put up a candidate against him in his Eastleigh constituency and campaigned hard to defeat him.

There was warm support from Tory members in a packed hall for the Liberal Democrats as coalition partners, but there was less enthusiasm for a formal electoral pact. One Conservative, who described himself as a “Thatcherite”, said any pact would be “undemocratic” as it deprived him of the right to vote for a “true Conservative”.

Sir Menzies said what he called a “coalition of necessity” had not changed his views and it was a re-alignment of the centre left, not the centre right, which remained the “mainspring of his political philosophy”. He reminded the Conservative conference audience that local Liberal Democrat associations guarded their independence fiercely and even if Nick Clegg wanted to enter an electoral pact with David Cameron, he might not be able to enforce such a deal.

Ippr director Nick Pearce warned the audience that the most likely result in the Scottish Parliament elections next year was Labour emerging as the biggest party and seeking to govern with the Liberal Democrats. That would leave the UK with a Con/Lib coalition in England and a Lab/Lib coalition in Scotland. Pearce, Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit under Gordon Brown, argued that Labour had to learn the lesson that ‘pluralism was here to stay’.

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