Speculation that there will be some sort of Tory-Lib Dem pact in 2015 has been growing for several weeks, with Michael Portillo recently suggesting that the two parties should fight the next election under the banner of "The Coalition".
Now, in a fascinating post on ConservativeHome, the Tory MP Mark Field has said that his party is almost certain to give "most Liberal Democrat incumbents" a free run in their seats, with the Lib Dems reciprocating by not standing against the most vulnerable Conservative MPs. Field may only be one MP, but his piece could be indicative of thinking elsewhere in the party.
The implications of such a pact would be profound. As the Tories would struggle to win a Commons majority without taking seats off the Lib Dems, a pact would amount to a de facto endorsement of permanent coalition government. Cameron's recent assertion that he views the coalition not as an alliance of convenience, but as a vehicle to realign British politics, suggests he may be open to this option.
Interestingly, while Field's proposal makes a lot of sense under first-past-the-post, it would make little under the Alternative Vote. Under AV, the coalition partners would likely advise their voters to give each other second preferences, and still put up candidates in every constituency.
But should Field's prediction come to pass, we can expect a record number of candidates from Ukip and the non-aligned right, trying to attract all those Tory voters who wouldn't dare lend their support to Nick Clegg's party.