Published:

By Peter Hoskin
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There
are two particular reasons, at the moment, to discuss whether and when David
Cameron should break the bonds of coalition. First, there’s the spirit of
self-confidence that has descended on the Tories with the hot weather. Second,
there’s the fact that so many simmering divisions between Conservatives and Lib
Dems – benefits, Europe, Trident – have recently boiled over into the
newspapers.

And
so, two columnists have set their pens to the matter today. The first is Simon
Heffer, who, in the Daily
Mail
, usefully outlines the two broad strands of Tory thought, whilst placing
himself with the first:

“One
influential group wants him to break the Coalition and separate from the Lib
Dems after May’s European elections, so as to govern as a minority
administration for the last eight or nine months before the next general
election.

This would
allow the Tories to demonstrate to voters the more radical policies that would
be pursued by a Conservative Party governing on its own.

However,
another group of advisers wants Mr Cameron to remain yoked to Nick Clegg &
Co until May 2015. This is not out of any sense of loyalty to the Lib Dems, but
because they fear the Tories might need them to form a second Coalition if
there is another election that results in no one party winning an outright
majority.”

The
other is Matthew Parris in
the Times (£)
. He belongs more to Heffer’s second group, although not just for
the sake of another Coalition. He’s also concerned that an anti-Coalition
stance could both alienate “middle-of-the-roaders  who may vote Conservative, but sometimes
waver,” and place power in the hands of what he calls “the awkward squad on the
right”. Or at least that’s my précis – it’s worth reading his column for the
full argument.


Where
do ConHome readers stand? Please do make yourself heard in the comments section,
below – but we can also glean something, on that score, from our regular
surveys. The last survey yielded these results:

Graph

Myself,
I’m one of those terrible softies who thinks the Tories should be at pains to
preserve the original spirit of the Coalition (see here
and here,
for instance) – but even I, increasingly, believe there’s a political case for
a decoupling before the next election, so long as it is carefully agreed and
organised by both sides. It’s not as though the Rose Garden is currently in
full blossom. The frustrations of mutual government will likely just grow worse
as the election approaches.

But
I do have a practical concern: ditching the Lib Dems would require a wholesale
reshuffle, with plenty of MPs who haven’t necessarily had much experience of
Government drafted into ministerial positions at the sharp end of a Parliament.
What this would mean for the Tories’ policy agenda is uncertain. Would it
rejuvenate it? Would it upset it? But it’s a risky game to play with an
election approaching.

Comments are closed.