Agreement for David Cameron to open negotiations with the Liberal Democrats over a coalition was granted to him by a single meeting of the 1922 Committee in 2010. There was no vote, by secret ballot or otherwise (though it must be added that none was called for). The Coalition was formed within a week of the general election having taken place.
Graham Brady loyally tries to stick to the line that the Conservatives will win the next election, referring to any other outcome as “unthinkable”. But since his duties as Chairman of the 1922 Committee’s Executive oblige him to guard its interests, he cannot help but be drawn, during Andrew Gimson’s interview with him which we publish today, on what will happen if David Cameron again fails to win a majority in 2015.
Since Brady says that he doesn’t envisage the protocol “being a public document”, we can note that it will thus be a written one, thereby greatly reducing the possibility of any misunderstanding between David Cameron and the Executive over its terms. The ’22 Chairman also suggests that any discussions about a coalition next time round will take longer than they did three and a half years ago.
Or, as he puts it, “some of the pressures that were present in 2010 will not be there”. Matthew D’Ancona reminds readers of his fascinating study of the Coalition, In It Together, that during the campaign that preceded it the Conservative leadership was publicly campaigning for a majority while privately preparing for coalition negotiations if one wasn’t achieved.
Stephan Shakespeare’s column on this site today, as well as Andrew’s interview with Brady, are reminders that the run-up to the next election, and the campaigning during it, will be deeply affected by voter and media memories of what happened last time round. To put it bluntly, if a Coalition deal is proposed, Tory MPs are going to take a long time to consider it – and may not sign up to it at all.
The ’22 Chairman won’t be drawn on whether or not the vote to which he refers will take place by secret ballot in the event of a Coalition being proposed. ConservativeHome believes that it should – and, indeed, that party members should have a say, too. A show of hands in a packed Committee Room 14 before the attentive gaze of the Whips simply wouldn’t do.