Whitehall prepares for a minority Government as David Cameron makes anti-coalition pledge

 

Political Editor

David Cameron has tried to reassure Conservative backbenchers that he is not angling for another coalition with the Liberal Democrats after next year’s general election.

Allies of the Prime Minister hinted that, if the Tories are again the largest party in a hung parliament, they would run a minority government in the hope of securing an overall majority in a second election 12 or 18 months later.

However, Cameron aides dismissed a report in the Conservative-supporting Daily Telegraph that the Tories might include a “no coalition” pledge in their election manifesto next year. Downing Street said: “We’re going all out for victory – you won’t find the PM saying anything else. Our manifesto is about policy. Between now and the election, we’re not going to talk about any outcome other than victory.”

Mr Cameron is highly unlikely to limit his post-election options by formally ruling out a second coalition – not least because, if the Tories and Labour won a similar number of seats, such a move could open to the door to a Lib-Lab coalition.

He has already promised Tory MPs they would get a vote on a coalition next time, after criticism that they were “bounced” into supporting his 2010 agreement with Nick Clegg.

Many right-wing Tories have never warmed to the Coalition and suspect Mr Cameron would rather depend on the Lib Dems for a Commons majority than the critics on his own backbenches. The signals from some in the Cameron camp may be designed to dispel that idea.

Lynton Crosby, the Tories’ Australian election strategist, has urged Mr Cameron to show he is hungry for a Tory victory rather than “playing for a draw”. With the electoral arithmetic stacked against the Tories, they are keen to turn next year’s contest into a “straight choice” between Mr Cameron and Ed Miliband. Limiting speculation about a coalition would help that cause.

But Tory MPs reacted with scepticism to the smoke signals that Mr Cameron would avoid another coalition. One senior backbencher told The Independent: “This is a pathetic and transparent attempt to reassure the Tory right and pretend that Cameron is ‘one of us’ after all. It won’t convince anyone. We know he would rather be in coalition with the Lib Dems than the Tory right. The difficulties we would cause him would make his troubles with the Lib Dems look like the teddy bears’ picnic.”

Moderate Tories warned that a “no coalition” manifesto pledge could repel floating voters as it would look like Mr Cameron had abandoned his attempt to  “detoxify” his party.

Mr Clegg would press for a second full-scale coalition if the Tories remained the largest party in a hung parliament, rather than a looser “confidence and supply” arrangement in which the Lib Dems would back the Tories in key Commons votes but would not serve as ministers.

“We have shown since 2010  that coalition works,” said a senior Lib Dem source. “It is not for the politicians to decide the outcome of the next election but for the British people. In the event of a hung parliament, the Lib Dems would seek to do our duty in again providing the strong and stable government the country needs.”

When senior civil servants turn their minds to post-election scenarios, they are expected to devote more time to preparing for a minority government than they did in 2010. Lord Gus O’Donnell, who was Cabinet Secretary at the last election, told MPs this month: “ We didn’t do much work on minority government, a confidence and supply arrangement; we did a little bit. You can imagine that being a more attractive prospect [in 2015] because last time... we were in a recession and it was clear you were going to have to make some really tough decisions on the deficit. This time round the economy is in a recovery stage.”

Lord O’Donnell raised the intriguing prospect of the largest party engineering a Commons vote of no confidence against itself to trigger a second election after 12-18 months. That party would also need the backing of another group of MPs. Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act introduced by the present Government, the votes of two thirds of MPs are needed to cut short a five-year parliament.

There are growing tensions between the Tories and Lib Dems and signs that the Coalition is running out of steam. With tricky policy decisions deferred until after next year’s election, some Lib Dem MPs believe it would be difficult to make another Lib-Con coalition work. Private contacts between senior Labour and Lib Dem figures have increased markedly in recent months. But the voters, not the politicians, will decide the most likely combination in a hung parliament.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Male Support Worker / Full Time Driver

£9464 - £12995 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will ne...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing and Business Development Officer

£19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hull based charity providing except...

Recruitment Genius: Part Time Female Support Worker

£9464 - £10396 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The successful applicant will ne...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future