May 2015 is an age away in political terms. But the question of what happens to the
coalition after the next election is too politically interesting to be able to resist speculating on; even if this speculation is almost certainly going to be overtaken by events.
Over at ConservativeHome, Paul Goodman asks if Cameron and Osborne
share Francis Maude’s view that the coalition should continue after
the next election even if the Tories win an outright majority. My impression is that they do. If the Tories won a majority of between 10 and 30, I’d be surprised if Cameron didn’t try
and keep the coalition going.
There are four main reasons why I think the Tory leadership would want to keep the Liberal Democrats in the government in these circumstances. First of all, Cameron is a natural at being a
coalition Prime Minister. He is better at it than he would be at being a purely Tory one. The leadership also appreciates how coalition gives it cover to do things that it would be politically more
difficult to do otherwise. Third, Cameron likes the way in which coalition changes his relationship with his own parliamentary past. Finally, and most importantly, if the Liberal Democrats went
into the government with the Tories in this scenario, they would have taken a massive step to becoming Tories. David Cameron would have realigned British politics, ending Tony Blair’s dream
of Lib-Lab progressive century.
Cameron’s offer really would be an instrument of excruciating torture for the Liberal Democrats. Cameron
would tell Clegg he would rather govern in coalition with him than Bill Cash. He would offer the Lib Dems the same number of jobs in government and another chance to enact many of their policy
The Lib Dems who are serving in government are, for the most part, enjoying the experience. They would be sorely tempted by the opportunity to carry on in government. But they would know that doing
so would put their party’s independence and identity on the critical list.