Following Tory MP Nick Boles's comments, what are the chances of a 'Coalition Party' standing at the next General Election?
A Conservative MP described as one of David Cameron’s ‘key aides’ has called for an electoral pact in the upcoming General Election. Nick Boles is one of the few Tories to have publicly supported the idea of an formal pact with the Liberal Democrats the next time voters go to the polls, but his suggestions could open new wounds from grassroots activists in both parties.
Boles had previously argued that to avoid the collapse of the coalition the parties should campaign together if the current government lasted five years:
“If we spend five years together governing and we defend that record, it makes sense to have one candidate representing everything we have done.”
Yesterday he further suggested it would be hard for members of the coalition to campaign against each other having been “through the fire together”, arguing that working with the Liberal Democrats had allowed the government to be “more radical” than it could ever have been as a minority party.
An idea of a coalition pact would be greatly beneficial to the Conservative hierarchy keen to prevent the possibility of the so called ‘progressive alliance‘ long envisioned between Labour and the Lib Dems by many on the left. Allowing the coalition to run as one party would make it difficult for the Liberal Democrats to join Labour, therefore ensuring that as long as the coalition still had a majority of seats, David Cameron would remain as prime minister.
Despite questions over what electoral system would be used in five years’ time following the upcoming referendum on electoral reform, Boles has argued that even using the alternative vote method could allow the coalition to run as one political entity:
“If the voters choose to keep our current system of electing MPs, as I fervently hope they will, the pact would give parliamentary candidates in constituencies in seats held by a coalition party a free run against other parties…
“We would also agree on which coalition party should contest the most marginal seats of the opposition parties. If the voters do decide to embrace the alternative vote, the pact would require each of the coalition partners to urge their supporters to give their second preference vote to the candidate from the other coalition party.”
Mr Boles may be a bit optimistic in the latter of his suggestions as a huge number of Liberal Democrat voters would be unlikely to appreciate being told who to allocate their second preferences to, especially with many of them being more ideologically aligned to the idea of a progressive alliance.
Despite criticism from forces within both parties, Boles has some heavyweight support behind his idea, with former prime minister John Major being an advocate for a coalition alliance at the next general election. Whilst there may be some support within the ‘reform’ wing of the party the right-wing and grassroots will undoubtedly oppose the measure.
The latest opponent of the idea to speak out has been Conservative MP and secretary of the influential backbench Conservative 1922 committee Mark Pritchard, complaining in the Mail on Sunday:
“While most of the ‘purple plotters’ (those trying to permanently blend the traditional blue and yellow colours of each party with a dash of red for the sizeable Lib Dem Left) mean well, there are fundamentalists among them who are at this very moment straining their political sinews in a misguided attempt to try to supplant the very heart and soul of the Conservative Party itself…
“A clumsy attempt to try to deconstruct the most successful political party in British history.”
Former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell yesterday also spoke out against the proposition of a pact between the two parties at the next election, arguing:
“We are two separate parties with two separate traditions.”
Whilst David Cameron has described a potential pact as ‘unlikely’ and the perpetually depressed looking Nick Clegg has repeatedly spoken strongly against it, having seen previous Lib Dem u-turns over basic economic policy and tuition fees it will be unlikely to convince many of their supporters that the easily led Mr Clegg will not change his mind again. One thing for sure is that this coalition has shown that no strongly held views or promises are etched in stone.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.