Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
29 June 2010

Will there be a Tory-Lib Dem pact at the next election?

The Tories and the Liberal Democrats may agree to support each other under the Alternative Vote.

By George Eaton

As I wrote this morning, the main thing binding the Lib Dems to the Tories is the promise of a referendum on electoral reform. Should the referendum (expected in spring 2011) be won, the coalition has a decent chance of making it to 2015. But should it be lost, many figures in both parties will expect the coalition to fall apart.

We would then face the unusual prospect of two parties that have shared power for five years attempting to campaign against each other. Those who point out that the same thing happens across Europe are ignoring that, in most cases, the main parties indicate their coalition partner of choice in advance of the election.

Under the Alternative Vote, a system that encourages second-preference votes, the possibility of a Tory-Lib Dem pact will seem irresistible to some.

It is precisely this possibility that is floated by Daniel Finkelstein on his blog today. Citing the example of Australia, he suggests that such an arrangement would benefit the Lib Dems rather than Labour:

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday - from the New Statesman. Sign up directly at The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. Sign up directly at Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

In Australia, says my friend, 90 per cent of voters follow the preference card issued by their party of choice. In other words, they order their preferences following the guidance of their first-preference choice.

Content from our partners
Resolving the crisis in children’s dentistry
Planetary perspectives: how data can transform disaster response and preparation
How measurement can help turn businesses’ sustainability goals into action

He adds:

The coalition partners could eschew a formal pact, but agree to guide their voters to give each other second preferences. Thus they would run against each other but still in tandem.

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.

The conservative case for AV has been made by few outside of Phillip Blond’s ResPublica, but I’d expect this to change as the referendum draws closer. Others, like Boris Johnson, who recently declined an invitation to join Lynton Crosby’s anti-AV campaign, have become agnostic about reform.

By 2015, if the economy is reviving and Clegg’s programme of constitutional reform has been completed, there will be many who will not want the marriage to end there.

Special subscription offer: Get 12 issues for £12 plus a free copy of Andy Beckett’s “When the Lights Went Out”.