As well as trying to prepare voters for what may happen after 8 May, David Cameron needs to make sure he has his party on board for the ride after the election, too. The 1922 Committee will need to approve a second coalition, but the hope in the Cameron camp is that this will be made easier by making the approval a show of hands from Tory MPs, rather than the secret ballot 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady wants.
Two interesting points that loyalists advance is that the Lib Dems approved the 2010 Coalition with a show of hands and that many prominent 1922 Committee Executive members were against the plan to elect the Speaker by secret ballot that the government tried to introduce rather sneakily in its last few hours. This isn’t strictly true: the reason so many MPs were against the secret ballot reform for the Speaker was not that they opposed the principle of votes being cast in private, but because it was a cunning yet clunky move to try to stitch up Bercow in particular. It will be interesting to see how they react to this episode, which so many thought was Number 10 trying to be clever and screw over Parliament, being used as justification for not holding a secret ballot for a coalition.
The Committee chair Graham Brady could always call an unofficial secret ballot anyway, knowing that the disparity between that and the open show of hands would show what the true opinion in the Tory party is about a second partnership with the Lib Dems.
Even in a secret ballot, though, the chances are that the vote for a coalition would pass with perhaps some grumbles. Certainly influential figures on the right of the Tory party who do not like Cameron seem to be keen to ‘support’ him in forming a government, but only to that point. ‘I will be helping to soothe the party,’ says one anti-Cameron figure. ‘After that there will be a reckoning.’ Cameron could buy some of his party off with ministerial jobs, but for those he really cannot promote, he may have to settle for knowing that being in government with a bunch of rebels causing you trouble yet again on Europe is still preferable to being out of government.