There are three views about the Coalition’s future among Conservative MPs and activists. The first is that it should end now. (Many of those who think so believe it should never have been formed in the first place.) The second is that it should continue until the next election. The third is that it should break up at some point over the next year. In our last monthly survey, 23 per cent of party members supported the first option, 24 per cent the second and 53 per cent the third.
A question that follows for those who think that Coalition should be brought to a close is how this should happen – and one for those who don’t is how the Party differentiates itself from its partner over the next year or so. Should the two parties be as closely identified as possible? How can Tory manifesto proposals best be floated as they emerge? Should the partners increasingly go their separate ways in the lobbies – as they did to some degree over Nick de Bois’s knife crime amendment this week?
David Cameron will have to set out his view, directly or indirectly, by the time of October’s Party Conference: Downing Street’s position as matters stand is that the Coalition will go all the way to the wire. Unsurprisingly, Conservative MPs are discussing what should happen next. I understand that there are moves to debate the matter at the weekly 1922 Committee meeting: indeed, it might have been raised last week, had the Prime Minister not been the committee’s guest speaker.
The ’22’s executive has discussed the options. There is no secret about the view of Graham Brady, its Chairman: he told Andrew Gimson during an interview for this site last year that “my own view, which is a private view for which I claim no special status, has always been that we should have a planned separation before the general election, and that that would help to avoid a period of increasingly rancorous relations within the coalition”.
The Times (£) picks up this emerging story this morning, reporting that some Tory MPs “want the power-sharing deal to come to an early end to show that a Conservative minority administration could work if there is no overall majority after next May’s poll”. My view is that there should be a gradual, orderly separation. I gather that if the ’22 doesn’t debate the issue during the summer recess, it is likely to when the Commons returns in September.