I’m just back from three weeks away to find the summer momentum very strongly behind the Tories. A ComRes poll suggests that the majority of Labour supporters think Ed Miliband is doing badly, and things are going so strongly for the Tories (as George Trefgarne writes) that the odds on a Tory majority are shrinking rapidly. So why would Cameron be planning for another coalition, as my colleague James Kirkup writes in his Telegraph splash today? His piece has struck a nerve in No. 10, which is strongly denying that the Prime Minister is thinking of anything other than a Conservative majority in 2015.
There are, I’m told, no plans to change any rules to make coalition more doable after the next election. Of course, you may say, Cameron would say this anyway. But time was when he quite liked the idea of a ten-year coalition (as James Forsyth wrote at the time) and would not have minded such stories leaking out. The strength of the No. 10 denial over today’s story is, to me, as striking as it is welcome. The Tories absolutely should be dreaming of what Denis Healey called ‘bugger off day’ when you can tell your coalition partner they’re surplus to requirement. Healey was referring to the IMF but the Tories ought to have the same sentiments. If you don’t think pure Tory government is in Britain’s national interest – far more so than coalition – why be a Tory?
The money is still on Ed Miliband as most likely to be PM. The odds imply a 36 per cent chance of outright victory for Labour, and 20 percent for the Tories. A Lib-Lab coalition is 17 percent and a repeat of the Con-Lib coalition is just 13 percent. Odds on a Scottish ‘yes’ vote (which would transform UK elections) are at 17 percent. It doesn’t matter how well (or badly) the coalition partners are getting on. The simple electoral calculus makes a repeat of this coalition very unlikely.
Of course, it is highly likely that all parties will make detailed backup preparations for coalition after the next election, given how such preparedness can make the difference between power and opposition (the lesson of Andrew Adonis’s book, Five Days in May). The Tories would be remiss if they did not make a detailed contingency plan. if it leaks its always embarrassing, so what Kirkup has written rings true to me. But No. 10’s vehement denial that Cameron thinks coalition is preferable is a encouraging sign of his increased confidence. The next step is to say more about why a Tory-only government would be better.