February 05, 2007

For his next turn David Cameron will appear as Stanley Baldwin!

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.


Anonymous said...

Of course, if the Liberals try to hold out for some kind of electoral reform, that might make such a grouping impossible.

As an aside, I sort of wonder what the "true gravity" of the Conservative party is. It is certain that most of them are prepared to follow Cameron quite a distance to get hold of power, but:

1) That's for the promise of real power, not some hobbled coalition government.

2) The UK blogosphere has quite a representation from the right. And largely they're not really Cameron types. They're not that impressed by the "touchy-feely" and they don't like his apparent/potental drift away from neo-liberal orthodoxy to a more conciliatory tone on things like the NHS. But do the bloggers tell us about the pulse of the whole party, or are they more in tune with a particular faction?

3) This is not even to mention the obvious splits on things like Europe or the split I hope would occur if the Govian tendency appears to be in ascendency over foreign policy.

The usual question is "will the real David Cameron please stand up?"

However I think an equally important question is:

"Will the real Conservative party please stand up?"

CityUnslicker said...

Wow,a good anon post; very rare.

overall, i think Cameron has a difficult time ahead. The LD's are too confused themselves to offer much help and will have a new leader by the next election.

This leaves the terrible case of Gordo leading a minority government with Chris Huhne?


With a FPP system hung parliaments are quite hard to achieve. i would go so far as to say htey are a systemic faliure given the biases purposely set in place to get a coheasive government.

james higham said...

Tell us more about the Carlton House rebellion.

Gracchi said...

Ok here goes- Anonymous- lots of your points make sense though I think there is a real desire to get into government from many Tories it will depend on the policies they can get out I would think.

CUS yes FPPP is a system which isn't particularly coalition friendly. The Liberals I sense would have difficulties lasting long in any government- indeed in the thirties of course they split three ways. It isn't something endemic to Liberals- but Ming doesn't inspire confidence within the Liberal party at the moment so he could find it difficult to command his backbenchers.

James I will I promise, I don't have the space here but it is an interesting episode.

CityUnslicker said...

Also gracchi the liberal vote is collapsing so I don't think they will hold the sway in the future that they have in the past.

People ignore the Irish parties and SNP; yet they could be the kingmakers.

Gracchi said...

They could be the question is distribution of the vote between seats as well but I take your point.