This article from Conservative Home written by Political Betting's Mike Smithson looks at the likely result of the next General Election. He prophesies that the Conservative Party will most likely get the largest share of the vote, come second in terms of seats but that there will be a hung Parliament. Smithson argues that the likeliest outcome is a Conservative Government backed from the backbenches by the Liberal Democrats. I don't want to speculate on the numbers- its a long way out, we don't know how Prime Minister Brown will turn out or how the electorate's mood will change- any number of things (a big terrorist attack?) which are unforseeable could change the way that the public view the elections. But lets take Mr Smithson's view as an accurate depiction of what might happen- that the Tories end up in coalition formally or informally with the Liberal Democrats.
One of the most interesting things about that scenario as Smithson acknowledges is that it isn't that far away from the scenario in which the national governments of the early 1930s operated. Stanley Baldwin as Leader of the conservative party found that coalition government suited him much better than did. As Graham Stewart documented in his wonderful book on the parallel careers of Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill, Baldwin's main problem in the 20s and 30s was healing the splits in the Tories left by the Carlton House rebellion of 1922 and cemented by controversies over protection and India in the thirties. The Tories won the 1931 election, but won it on a national ticket alongside Labour and some Liberals- because of that Baldwin was able to exclude and marginalise the right of the party- carrying India reform and excluding Churchill by reminding the Tories that they were in a coalition government.
One can imagine likewise Cameron using the threat of the Liberal withdrawel of support to charm some of the wild men on his backbenches. One of the interesting questions is whether in an age of hysterical bloggers and celebrity status for rebels this would work- my sense though is that at the moment the Tories are so starved of power, so hungry to get in and do some of what they would want that they might accept such a deal- particularly if they were not the largest party in the Commons- in return for getting into Government. In that sense David Cameron like Stanley Baldwin could find it very helpful not to have a pure Conservative ministry- but to have to accomodate some liberal measures and even maybe Liberal men to accompany his Tory revival.