Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
17 December 2010

Cameron hints that he wants a Lib Dem by-election victory

Ahead of the Oldham East by-election, Cameron says of the Lib Dems: “I wish them well.”

By George Eaton

The Conservatives have long feared that David Cameron is secretely hoping for a Lib Dem victory in the forthcoming Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election. But the Prime Minister’s comments at a Brussels press conference this afternoon mean that desire is no longer so secret.

He said:

Obviously, in a coalition, you always wish your partners well. I think the coalition has worked extremely well. All I would say is, the context of the by-election is the MP elected at the election has been found in court to have told complete untruths about his opponent.

I think that is an extremely important context. In that context, we wish our partners well. They had an extremely tough time. All the unfairnesses and untruths about their candidate – he’s now been exhonerated. So of course I wish them well.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

We’ll be patrolling the same streets and fighting for the same votes. But I hope that will be done in a slightly more friendly manner than it has in the past.

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

Cameron’s words imply that the Lib Dems have a stronger moral claim to the seat, and his insistence at the end that the parties will be “fighting for the same votes” feels rather tokenistic.

As I’ve said before, it’s not hard to imagine why Cameron wants the Lib Dems to win. A yellow victory would reassure the Lib Dem left (the coalition’s weakest link) and strengthen government unity. Conversely, a heavy Lib Dem defeat would alarm the party’s increasingly rebellious backbenchers and put the Prime Minister under pressure to make greater concessions.

But more significantly, Cameron’s statement that “in a coalition, you always wish your partners well” is the clearest indication yet that he’s considering an electoral pact with the Lib Dems.