Tory ministers considering a tactical vote deal to stop Labour

A plan for the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to encourage anti-Labour tactical voting at the next general election is being discussed privately by Tory Cabinet ministers.

Although David Cameron and Nick Clegg insist the two Coalition parties will fight the election as separate parties, some Tory ministers want their party to soft pedal in the seats held by the Liberal Democrats.

The move could throw a lifeline to the 57 Liberal Democrat MPs, including Mr Clegg, who may come under pressure in his Sheffield Hallam constituency after his marked U-turn over university tuition fees.

Ministers believe a formal electoral pact in which the Tories and Liberal Democrats stand down to give each other a clear run in some seats is highly unlikely, as it would run into strong opposition from local party activists. However, they think this month's by-election in Oldham East and Saddleworth shows that an informal pact could work to the advantage of both parties – and hurt Labour.

The Tories ran a low-key campaign and many of their natural supporters switched to the Liberal Democrats, ensuring that Mr Clegg's party came second behind Labour and avoided a humiliating third place that could have led to demands from their activists to pull out of the Coalition.

Supporters of an informal pact at the election due in 2015 believe it could save many Liberal Democrat seats and give Mr Cameron an insurance policy if he failed to win an overall majority. In those circumstances, they hope the Coalition would continue – a course already backed by the former Prime Minister Sir John Major and the Tory former Cabinet minister Peter Lilley.

One Tory Cabinet minister told The Independent yesterday: "One scenario is an informal pact in which the two Coalition partners would help each other where they could. Voters aren't stupid. They can work out who is best placed to win in their constituency – as they did in Oldham. It wouldn't have to be a formal, top-down pact, which would be very difficult to impose on local associations in any case."

The minister added: "Are we going to go hell for leather to defeat Chris Huhne [the Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary] in Eastleigh [where the Tories are in second place]? No. I wouldn't have any part in that. I am not going to campaign for a Tory victory there."

The Liberal Democrats are more cautious about a pact than the Tories, reflecting fears in Mr Clegg's party that it is in danger of losing its identity in the Coalition. Mr Clegg said on Sunday that the Coalition partners were not "joined at the hip" and would fight the next election as separate, independent parties.

Privately, senior Labour figures fear an anti-Labour understanding. One reason why Ed Miliband is wooing the Liberal Democrats is to keep open the prospect of a Lib-Lab deal in the event of another hung parliament.

The planned Lib-Con pact faces opposition from right-wing Tory MPs, who were furious at the party's "softly softly" campaign in the Oldham by-election. But one minister dismissed their criticism, saying: "What was in the best interests of the Conservative Party? For the Coalition to continue and not to be destabilised. In the case of Oldham, that meant the Lib Dems doing well."

Senior Tories who favour a continuing alliance with the Liberal Democrats believe a pact could be more formal if a switch to the alternative vote is approved in the referendum due on 5 May. Under this system, voters list the candidates in order of preference, the bottom one drops out and votes are redistributed until one candidate wins more than 50 per cent of those cast.

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
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

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
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