(1) Labour’s deep troubles have not yet produced an election-winning lead for the Tories with the LibDems’ support stubbornly persistent at about 20% and ‘other parties’ growing. The average 5.25% Tory lead comes before any ‘Brown honeymoon effect’ and the possibility that it might improve Labour’s position.
(2) A 6% Tory lead – projected by Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting yesterday – would – according to UK Polling Report’s Swing Calculator – produce this parliamentary share of seats: LAB 284: CON 283: LD 54: OTH 29. Such a Labour advantage would reflect the uneven distribution of population across Britain’s parliamentary constituencies – with boundaries failing to reflect the movement of population from (crudely) urban seats in the north to more suburban seats in the south.
(3) A LibCon pact is one of the most under-discussed possibilities at the next General Election even though 52% of Tory members have told ConservativeHome that a coalition or minority government is the most likely result.
(4) Key ‘Cameroons’ Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey have both made very warm noises about the possibilities of ever greater LibCon co-operation. William Hague, Francis Maude and Ken Clarke have all made similarly positive noises.
(5) More important than what is being said are perhaps the policy changes made by David Cameron that all position the Tories much closer to the LibDems: Kyoto environmentalism; less enthusiasm for nuclear power; a more doveish approach to Iraq; a greater emphasis on civil liberties; and a large acceptance of Labour’s legacy on tax and public spending.
(6) During 2005 ConservativeHome successfully opposed Michael Howard’s attempt to change the rules of the Tory leadership contest. During 2006 ConservativeHome championed Tory members’ scepticism about the now heavily-diluted A-list. During 2007 ConservativeHome will put similar energy into being a platform for members’ scepticism about LibCon co-operation. ConservativeHome aims to put together a mailing list of activists who wish to oppose a formal coalition and that group will plan action together.
(7) That scepticism is revealed in ConservativeHome’s January poll of Conservative Party members. The same survey that came within 1% of predicting the outcome of the Cameron-Davis contest finds little enthusiasm for a formal LibCon coalition with the likes of Menzies Campbell joining David Cameron around a Cabinet table.
(8) Should no party win an outright majority, 79% of Tory members prefer a minority Tory government working with other parties on individual issues. Only 9% want a formal coalition with the LibDems. Full data can be found in this pdf
(9) Opposition to nuclear power stations, support for proportional representation and enthusiasm for the EU are key hallmarks of the LibDems’ agenda but deals on any of those issues would be “unacceptable” to large majorities of Tory members. Even a promise to hold a referendum on PR for Westminster would be “unacceptable” to 67% of Conservative members. A larger number – 70% – oppose any deal which would stop the building of new nuclear power stations. 60% would regard it “unacceptable” if a coalition scuppered David Cameron’s pledge to take Britain out of the EU’s Social Chapter.
(10) The message from Tory members is that any co-operation with the LibDems would have to be rooted on an ad hoc basis in, perhaps, a rebalancing of the tax system towards environmental considerations, protection of civil liberties and greater decentralisation.
Related link: May 2006 poll on Tory members’ attitude to co-operation with the LibDems.