Party reaction: Liberal Democrats fear deal will provoke exodus - UK Politics - UK - The Independent

Party reaction: Liberal Democrats fear deal will provoke exodus

Unease at prospect of sitting alongside Conservatives

Tory and Liberal Democrat backbenchers were coming to terms with the prospect of sitting alongside MPs from a party they had spent their careers fighting yesterday, amid signs of grassroots unease over the formation of the historic coalition.

Even the most outspoken MPs in the parties were holding their tongues as they were determined to present a united front backing the deal. However, Liberal Democrat MPs admitted the party would lose supporters who would not understand Nick Clegg's decision to form a full coalition government with the Tories. There were also signs of frustration within Conservative ranks over David Cameron's failure to secure an outright majority.

Liberal Democrats on the left of the party were still picking over the bones of the failed attempt to form a "progressive alliance" with Labour yesterday, with many still fuming at the refusal of Gordon Brown's negotiating team to make any serious compromises. "Obviously, there was a gut reaction from many of us about working with the Tories, but the response from Labour made the difference," one said. "The Tories have been far more progressive in what they were offering us than Labour, who were pathetic."

Even the most anti-Tory figures conceded that the coalition with the Conservatives had become the only option. "We were left with no choice and we must now make this work," said one, who had given up a role as a junior department spokesman. They anticipated that problems would emerge when senior Liberal Democrats were asked to justify tougher policies pushed through by Mr Cameron.

Jim Wallace, who helped negotiate Lib Dem coalition deals in Scotland, has been working behind the scenes on the mechanics of the agreement in a bid to allay the fears of Liberal Democrat backbenchers. "We are naturally suspicious of the Tories and they are naturally suspicious of us," said one MP. "But Jim's involvement has helped a lot." Many were still amazed at the concessions made by the Tories. "We're trying to work out exactly why they gave us so much," said another on the left of the party. "Maybe it's because Cameron is for real. Maybe we're useful to help him with the right of his own party."

Don Foster, the party's MP for Bath, said its grassroots operation would be hit by the advent of the coalition. "I think there is no doubt whatsoever there will be party members who will walk away, because they want the total purity, but I have to say to them that if we have a situation like this, we have a responsibility to find a way forward that is in the best interests of the country. Of course it will be difficult for Liberal Democrats, including me, to swallow having to work with people who we were campaigning against, but the electorate asked us to do that and that's what we will have to deliver."

Some party members did see the coalition as a mistake, but most were taking a pragmatic approach. "This is going to be extremely difficult. It's definitely not the choice I would have made," said Mark Bailey, a councillor in Bristol, a city in which the Liberal Democrat MP, Stephen Williams, had fought off a challenge from the Tories. "Any policies that are successful, the Tories will claim all the credit. It's a lose-lose situation for us."

One prominent Tory backbencher said he would keep his "powder dry" while he waited to see how the coalition worked out. But some admitted in private that Mr Cameron's "Big Society" pitch had been too complicated to explain on the doorstep. In a survey of more than 3,000 party members by grassroots website, ConservativeHome.com, more than 62 per cent said they believed the Tory election campaign had been "poor".

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week