Coalition grumblings from the Tory dispossessed
Chatted to a few Tory MPs this morning who are feeling distinctly queasy about yesterday’s grand launch of the new coalition. Some close to Cameron talk of it as a “Clause 4 moment” for the modernising project. “Clause 4 squared” one of them said. Some Tory MPs say it is doomed and the line “till debt us do part” (on the front of The Independent) captured it for one I spoke to.
The best scenario, the doomsters say, is that when it collapses the Conservatives end up capturing some of the more economically liberal of the Lib Dems and thereby decapitating a party that rivals them in councils and constituencies round the country.
One Tory said: “They’re pavement politicians, they’ll run when the first A&E goes,” (revealing on many levels perhaps. Some Tories talk about how they might gobble up the Liberal Democrats or diminish them in some way.
The analogies they use are the post-1945 revival of Conservatism in opposition when Churchill hoovered up Liberals. The other analogy is the Liberal Unionist party struck up in 1886. “I knew Joseph Chamberlain, John Hemming, and you’re no Joseph Chamberlain.”
There’s another segment of the Conservative parliamentary party that is simply baffled. Nick Clegg and David Cameron at yesterday’s press conference said their two parties would carry on campaigning against each other. But one Tory MP said it was more likely they wouldn’t, something more like the Coupon Election of 1918.
These are, I should emphasise, conversations with the dispossessed. Those who haven’t had “the call to office” and think they may now never get it.
To deal with all this, the Tory leadership (and the Lib Dem one I hear) have acknowledged they have to get out and about much more amongst their parliamentary troops in this administration, keep them alongside, get to know them better than they necessarily have done in the past, improve access. We shall see.