Will Maude’s frank comments boost Kennedy and rebound on the Tories?
With Charles Kennedy due to make his crucial leader’s speech at Blackpool today the chairman of the Tory party, Francis Maude, has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons by suggesting that his party could form a coalition with the Lib Dems if the next General Election produced an indecisive result.
In an interview in the Independent this morning Maude is quoted as saying “…You look round the country and you see a number of councils where Conservatives are in alliance with Lib Dems, Birmingham, for example. There’s no great drama about that…There’s no reason why that ( a coalition) should be out of the question If you end up with a hung parliament, there is either a minority government, which is unwieldy, or a coalition. You deal with what the electorate gives you.”
Maude is the first senior Tory to contemplate publicly such a notion and follows the pamphlet produced by the Lib Dem’s Vince Cable earlier in the month in which he also wrote of the possibility.
The problem for the Tories in raising this is that it looks as though they’ve conceded outright victory in the next election already – and no doubt the Indy’s interview will be stored by Labour strategists for use on a future occasion.
You can also see Tony Blair developing a rhetoric that seeks to tar the Tories with all the contradictions that it sees in Lib Dem policy.
For Charles Kennedy, still struggling after the criticisms of his leadership during the week, today’s piece is a gift and gives him the chance to get his biggest conference applause. Whatever the electoral arithmetic it is hard seeing Kennedy going into such a deal. He is also not strong on the detail and tough negotiating skills that are key for a leader in a coalition environment.
With talk increasingly of a coalition it is likely that we will see betting markets on the model of the current German ones on the make up of the next UK Government.