The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has suggested that if there was to be a hung parliament (i.e. one in which no party controls more than 50% of the seats), the Liberal Democrats would support the Conservatives instead of Labour. Whilst David Cameron would seemingly prefer a strong Conservative government, would he (privately) bemoan a coalition government? I think not.
Most people recognise that the Conservatives are ahead for two reasons. First is the anti-Labour vote (anyone but…) and second is the successful detoxification of the Conservative brand by David Cameron (people feel able to vote Conservative again). The second of these reasons would be under threat in a Conservative government, as the more hardline elements of the party would push for measures that would put off some moderates/independents. This is where the Liberal Democrats come in.
A Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government would have David Cameron as prime minister, and would have a Conservative home secretary. This would allow the government to reassure voters that they will be tough on crime and so forth. Vince Cable would probably be chancellor, because he is both popular and relatively fiscally conservative. Yet where the Liberal Democrats would demand most control would be over issues like the environment, which are precisely the sort of issues that Mr. Cameron needs to keep away from the more hardline members of his party. Thus the Lib Dems would act as a natural moderating influencing on an incoming Conservative government, leaving Mr. Cameron to complain (in public) about his hands being tied over certain issues.
Europe would be interesting though.
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Filed in: Party politics