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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Cameron makes his move

They may have a 13% lead in the latest opinion poll but the Tories are still worried about the impact of a new Liberal Democrat leader on their vote. That concern was underlined today with an offer from David Cameron to join forces with whoever emerges as our Leader on Tuesday so as to 'forge a new progressive alliance' to challenge Gordon Brown.

Conservative Home gives the game away when they say that the Tory leader's biggest worry is the Liberal Democrats: 'ConservativeHome has called the LibDems the "bindweed" of British politics. Once LibDems invade political territory they tend to hold it. At the last two sets of local elections the Tories have been winning seats from the LibDems but will that start to change with Ming gone?

Most Tory strategists do not expect the LibDems to be easy opponents with Nick Clegg at the helm (the likely winner when the LibDem ballot result is declared on Tuesday). With Charles Kennedy, Shirley Williams, Ming Campbell, Paddy Ashdown, Vince Cable, David Laws, Chris Huhne, Steve Webb and Julia Goldsworthy all possible members of a Clegg team, it will be a force to be reckoned with. They are all considerable figures able to command media attention.

The LibDems hold so many seats in southern England that the Tories must win in order to command a working majority after the next General Election. Some Tories close to Mr Cameron do not think that it is realistic to expect to win more than ten LibDem seats. In this scenario the Tories have to either make spectacular gains from Labour (no longer an unrealistic possibility) or think about making deals with the LibDems.'

Vince Cable has already rejected these overtures, suggesting that Cameron is living in 'cloud cuckoo land', whilst Chris Huhne has got to the heart of the issue by pointing out that any cooperation would just be skin deep and opportunistic. He told the Observer that 'David Cameron's claims to be pushing the green agenda are just as hollow as Gordon Brown's. In the summer of 2006 we had to break off our attempts to come up with joint policies because the Conservatives were not prepared to talk seriously about green taxes.'

For once the Tory leader's attempt to place himself on the high ground has backfired. He is clearly afraid of a Liberal Democrat upsurge otherwise he would not have made the offer in the first place.

Eventually, however, the Lib Dems will have to make a decision in regards to what stance they will take in the event of a hung parliment.

To be honest none of the options look like they would place the party in a particularly good light - support a failing Labour government, go into coalition with the Tories or do nothing to resolve an issue impeding the government of the country.

As for the leadership contest personally I hope Chris Huhne wins, it seems to me Nick Clegg is overrated; little of his performance thus far has seemed to match up with the reputation which precedes him.

A Swansea Blog
I absolutely agree that Cameron is acting out of fear. A revamped Lib-Dem party will be a major threat to the Tories. I really hope that Nick is the man who will lead the party. I believe that he will be able to take the fight to Cameron with a moral authority as well as the political skills that he and Chris both have in abundance.
What we do in a hung Parliament situation will depend on whether the voters produce such an outcome and what the balance of the parties is. It is therefore impossible to say in advance of the General Election result unless a conscious decision were taken to abandon equi-distance. Such a decision is unlikely given the illiberal nature of both Labour and Conservatives.
There's an intriguing comment over on the Conservative home comments thread from this:

...[W]e do seem to be automatically overlooking the third option for David Cameron to choose from: that of resolving NOT to form a government at all.

If we would be to win enough seats to form a minority government or a coalition government, it is my beleif that this would be a major disaster for the party. Once in government, the public would start to turn against us as the pendulum moves back towards the opposition; we would not command enough support in the country to be able to resist even a tiny swing against us, and we would not command enough authority in parliament to be able to carry out a Tory manifesto.

Hard to imagine Cameron declining the opportunity, but it emphasize that this issue, so often depicted as a special Lib Dem torment, is much more than that. Particularly if we secure PR in future, we need to prepare ourselves -- and others -- for furture coalitions.
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