The Tories have always denied rumours that they might give their coalition colleagues an easier ride at constituency level in the 2015 general election. But even though all three parties are very much on an election war footing now, the Conservatives have, strangely, yet to select candidates to fight two of their favourite ministers. The constituencies for Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander currently have no candidates, along with 28 others (including MPs the Tories aren’t quite so keen on working with in Coalition, such as Lynne Featherstone), while the other 27 have candidates in place. Alexander is easy to work with in the Treasury (I reported before Christmas that he’d been scolded by Lib Dem high command for using the Tory term ‘global race’). But the Conservatives have selected a candidate to fight Tory-friendly ex-minister Jeremy Browne in Taunton Deane, so clearly there are no plans for a National Liberal Party just yet…
Is this an informal way of keeping the heat off ministers who would work well in a second coalition for as long as possible? The later a candidate is selected, the smaller the opportunity they have to make an impact. It’s worth noting that Clegg and Alexander all have sizeable majorities of 15,284 and 8,765 respectively, so they’re not exactly key battlegrounds for the party. Similarly, while Jo Swinson’s East Dunbartonshire seat has a small majority of 2,184, the Conservatives are in third place, which might explain why her seat doesn’t yet have a Tory candidate. The party still has many candidacies to fill. But a mischievous observer might also wonder whether there’s another, more convivial, reason that some Lib Dem top dogs don’t have a keen young candidate breathing down their necks just yet.
Update, 17:10: Work and Pensions minister Steve Webb’s constituency is not named on the list of candidates supplied by CCHQ, but it turns out that they did in fact select a candidate for his seat in late December. But a Tory source insists to me that ‘we will be selecting candidates for every single seat including some key Lib Dem marginal seats’.
Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.