There are a couple of interviews with David Cameron in this morning’s papers; in the Mail on Sunday and the Sunday Times (£). Yet it is one with the Grand High Representative of the Tory Backbenches, Graham Brady, that really stands out.
In it, Brady tells the Sunday Times’s Tim Shipman that Conservative MPs should be given a vote on – and a veto over – any future Coalition deal. But, more than that, he also believes that this is what will happen. “I think it’s a given that there would have to be a vote,” is how he puts it. Asked whether this will take the form of a secret ballot, he responds: “I think that is inevitable.”
Brady’s views shouldn’t be surprising to ConHome readers. He revealed them in an interview with Andrew Gimson, for this site, at the end of 2013. Back then, he spoke of a “protocol” by which Tory MPs would gain “a definitive consultation with a vote”. And he reckoned, too, that this notion was shared by David Cameron.
What’s more surprising is that the head of the ‘22 Committee still has to make this case. It reveals that, even if it’s inevitable that Conservative MPs will get a vote, it’s still not confirmed. And that’s where the confusion lies. Will the Prime Minister give his MPs a vote? Will he extend it to party members, as some of those around him (£) prefer? How binding would these votes be? Questions, questions, questions; to which there are yet no definitive answers.
ConservativeHome’s position – expressed consistently by Paul Goodman – is that any proposal for another Coalition should be put to both Party members and MPs. Not only would this bolster the Party’s rickety internal democracy, but it could also bolster the Coalition itself. The Lib Dems’ relative content with the current set-up is surely, in part, because they agreed to it in the first place.
Of course, the Conservative leadership may be reluctant to countenance Hung Parliaments and shared governance as they enter the long election campaign. They may even be minded to choose minority government ahead of five more years with Clegg. But, as Peter Kellner emphasises in today’s Sun (£), the next election result is beyond the ken of even the best pollsters. Cameron should prepare for every possibility.
And it is better that Cameron prepares for the possibility of another Coalition now, before the proper election campaign begins – even if it’s only to privately inform his MPs of his intentions. Otherwise, the next few months will be filled with questions of protocol when they should be filled with statements of policy and belief. Which is something that really won’t aid the cause of a Conservative majority.