ConservativeHome believes that Team Cameron does not believe that a traditional Conservative agenda can secure another parliamentary majority for the Tory Party. For this reason it has a below-the-radar plan to build a Conservative Party that increasingly resembles the Liberal Democrats or/and can possibly form an alliance with the Liberal Democrats (and possibly some Blairites). That is why we surveyed Tory members about their views of ever closer LibCon co-operation. The results of that survey were published earlier this week.
In a very significant article for today’s Daily Mail, Peter Oborne lifts the lid on the extent of Tory attempts to woo Liberal Democrats and Blairites into the Tory camp…
Target one – LibDem MP David Laws: Oborne reveals that key Orange Booker David Laws was offered a shadow cabinet position if he defected to the Conservatives. The offer was made by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne with the full authority of David Cameron. Laws refused on the grounds that he was not a Tory.
Target two – David Owen: Peter Oborne reports that former SDP leader David Owen is also being "assiduously wooed." Earlier this week in an interview for ePolitix.com, Lord Owen spoke warmly about the possibility of LibCon co-operation: "If Cameron has the largest number of MPs but not an outright majority, I hope he can deal with the Liberal Democrats and come to an arrangement… I think there is common ground being established and I think people can see that a lot of Conservative policies are acceptable now."
Target three – Lord Adonis: One of the most important first decisions of David Cameron was to support Tony Blair’s education reforms. The reforms, designed by former Downing Street thinker Lord Adonis, only secured parliament passage because of Tory support. Peter Oborne speculates that Andrew Adonis may feel that his schools legacy will be more secure with a Cameron-led than a union-dependent, Brown-led government.
Target four – Peter Mandelson: The most controversial Tory target is apparently Peter Mandelson, the dark prince of the New Labour project. David Cameron has met the EU Trade Commissioner twice (Guido thinks three times). Oborne writes: "Relations are more than professionally cordial: they are warm and friendly. I have heard reliable accounts of Mandelson’s table talk from Brussels on the subject of the Tory leader. Although distressed by Cameron’s obstinate Euroscepticism, the Commissioner is otherwise emphatic in his approval, comparing him to the young Tony Blair of 11 or 12 years ago when Labour was in opposition." Peter Oborne’s article contains the extraordinary titbit that Gordon Brown has not spoken a single word to Peter Mandelson since became EU Commissioner. If true that is a damning indictment of Gordon Brown. How can Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer refuse to have dealings with the EU’s Trade supremo? Peter Oborne’s conclusion is on-the-money: "Brown’s refusal to have dealings with Mandelson can only be seen as a sign that he is ready to put his private vendetta (which dates back more than a decade) before the national interest."
It may be one of the big gains for Team Cameron in future months if the Blairites start causing Brown trouble once he is installed as Labour leader. If Gordon Brown doesn’t start to bury grievances he’ll only have himself to blame for what follows.