Senior Tories are debating the extent of outreach that should be made to the Liberal Democrats in the event of the Conservatives becoming the governing party at the next General Election.

Tory strategists are hopeful that the next election will see the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party significantly reduced in size but they also believe that the Conservatives have a long-term interest in ensuring that Britain’s third party looks as much to the Conservative Party as to the Labour Party as a future natural coalition partner.

I understand that a group of shadow ministers believe that one of Tony Blair’s bigger strategic mistakes was to row back on co-operation with the Liberal Democrats when he won such a large Commons majority in 1997.  These shadow ministers believe that – contrary to Labour’s ‘under-delivery’ to the LibDems – the Conservatives should deliver more in practical co-operation in government than they promise in opposition.

The discussion is not of ministerial positions – although there might be some significant appointments to policy reviews – but of working groups on issues of shared interest.  Action on civil liberties and on green issues are on the table.

Tim Montgomerie

PS Congratulations to Nick Clegg this morning.  His wife has given birth to the couple’s third child, a son.

2pm: Peter Hoskin at Coffee House sees merit in the plan: "As for the Tories and their wider strategy, shacking up with the Lib Dems makes a whole load of sense. Not only would it isolate Labour, but it meets calls for bipartisanship-in-government to deal with the economic crisis."

Tuesday, 7.30am: LibDemVoice responds to this post.

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