By Tim Montgomerie
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Interesting claim from Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat President, on this morning's Today programme. About three-and-a-half minutes into his interview with Justin Webb he claimed that the Conservatives would be running the country with a majority of sixty by now if the Liberal Democrats hadn't entered into the Coalition government.
He said that the Tories would have governed as a minority government for five months and held a second election last October. Farron said he was "99% sure" of his prediction. Labour would either have still had Brown in charge or no leader at all. He couldn't figure out which option would have been more "catastrophic". The Tories would also, the Lib Dem President suggested, have had a lot more money for a second election than either of their rivals.
I'm inclined to agree with Tim Farron. If Cameron had become Prime Minister, unveiled a programme of welfare and schools reform; promised action on human rights and immigration; and unveiled an economic stability programme; and then asked for a full mandate I'm pretty sure the electorate would have given him one.
Mr Cameron said at the time that he wanted to give the country stability and that a minority government wouldn't have given Britain that stability. The additional factors in Cameron's mind were (a) the opportunity to share the economic challenges with another party and (b) to isolate the Tory Right. Watching Danny Alexander and David Laws on BBCtv's Daily Politics earlier – both defending Osborne's strategy – I can certainly see the wisdom of (a). Factor (b) is more controversial but I can imagine a twinkle in Cameron's eye as he envisaged five years without having to worry too much about the views of Peter Bone, Nadine Dorries and David Nuttall.