I didn’t see today’s edition of BBC2’s Daily Politics as I was following Gordon Brown’s press conference, but PoliticsHome cites some interesting comments made on the programme by Ed Vaizey, the Cameroon shadow culture minster:

“We are going to win the next election outright but should it turn into a hung parliament I would expect us to work with the Lib Dems. I would be amazed if they prop up Labour.”

He did add, however, that whilst his was unlikely to be a formal coalition, he believed the Liberal Democrats would “be sensible and support a minority Conservative government”.

This raises several points. Firstly, there is the question of whether Conservatives should be discussing the scenario of a hung parliament in the first place. Some might say that it is a sign of weakness to be effectively suggesting that an outright Tory victory might not on the cards (although Ed did dutifully preface his remarks by saying it was). But I disagree for several reasons:

  • It clearly is a possible outcome and therefore it is mature and responsible for politicians to countenance that eventuality;
  • To talk in terms of assuming a Conservative majority could variously be deemed to be complacent, arrogant, taking voters for granted etc.; 
  • Reminding voters that the next election could be very tight will hopefully focus their minds on the choice that the country faces – ie a Conservative or Labour administration – and hopefully discourage anyone wanting a change of government from wasting their vote on the Lib Dems, UKIP etc.; and
  • It will put pressure on the Lib Dems to answer the same question themselves rather than brush it away with a "we want to maximise our votes and maximise our seats".

But what of the main point? I agree entirely with Ed Vaizey.

If Labour are given the thumbs down, the electorate would surely not
forgive the Lib Dems come the following  election if they sought to
prop up a minority Labour government on its way out which had clearly
lost people’s confidence.

Similarly, I would also venture that it would be electorally daft in
the extreme for the Lib Dems to do anything to frustrate a Cameron
administration which happened to be short of an overall majority. Any
attempt to scupper a Conservative legislative programme would surely
see them punished at a further election sooner rather than later.   

Incidentally, if any opposition politician is likely to know Nick
Clegg’s innermost thoughts about these and other matters, it is Ed
Vaizey: last year the pair spent a week at close quarters trekking
across the Arctic together for Westminster Challenge.

Jonathan Isaby