political

How George Osborne tried to make an electoral pact with the Lib Dems

Usually the first piece from a book’s serialisation contains by far the most juicy stories, but today’s extracts from David Laws’s Coalition rather top last week’s.

Here‘s George Osborne’s attempt to make an electoral pact with the Liberal Democrats:

The Tories secretly tried to form a 2015 Election pact with the Lib Dems to keep the Coalition going, according to David Laws.

He says George Osborne proposed a so-called ‘coupon election’ deal with the Lib Dems, whereby up to 50 Tory MPs would have been written off, ordered to make way for Lib Dems.

If the deal had gone ahead, Clegg would still be in Downing Street in a ‘Coalition Mark II’.

And it would have made David Cameron’s outright victory last May impossible. Osborne told Laws: ‘We should be thinking of a deal in 2015 where we don’t fight each other in our key seats… a ‘coupon Election’.

‘We wouldn’t stand in places like Taunton and Wells and you wouldn’t stand in some of our marginal seats.’

Laws and Clegg turned the deal down because the Lib Dems would be seen as Tory ‘lapdogs’ – and it could spark a ‘riot’ among Lib Dem activists. Laws’ account confirms rumours in 2011 and 2012 that Cameron and Osborne wanted a Con-Lib pact to avoid defeat.

Right-wing MPs claimed it was a Downing Street plot to merge the two parties and water down traditional Tory policies. No 10 denied such a move had been made.

The term, ‘coupon election’, dates back to 1918 when Coalition leaders Lloyd George and Bonar Law regained power by using coupons to endorse coalition candidates.

This idea may seem quite fanciful now, but in the early days of coalition there were Conservatives calling for a long-term pact, most notably Tory MP Nick Boles who wrote a book about the idea.

Clegg and Laws, howevever, rejected the idea without reference to the wider party, mindful perhaps of how Ming Campbell got stung by Gordon Brown’s offer of a rather different deal in 2007 to which Campbell replied ‘I’ll have to talk to colleagues’ and then got stung by a leak from Labour followed by outrage. Instant rejection would have served Campbell and the Liberal Democrats better on that occasion, even if generally wanting to talk to colleagues is a good instinct.

You can order Coalition: The inside story of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government by David Laws here.

6 comments
Last Edwardian Liberal
Last Edwardian Liberal

I suppose the irony wasn't lost on Mr Clegg and Mr Laws that the 'coupon election' was the one which broke the old Liberal Party electorally, as the Asquithian Liberals were trounced and the Coalition Liberals merely had a stay of execution.  You should read 'The Times' editorial of the 1918 Election result, it sounds like News International, avant la lettre, with its crowing.  It compares the Liberal's rout in 1 night with the Conservative's misfortunes in 1906, where voting & news of results had taken over a month.  It even manages to make The Daily Telegraph's triumphalism last year seem magnanimous.  Read it at University, while poring over the results, because how & why Asquith lost power and the Liberals' fate was ignored in Leaving Cert history, which was odd given Home Rule's importance in the syllabus in Ireland.  

Ian Hanson
Ian Hanson

should have listen to Danny Alexander that's why the Personal allowance is good now.

Sabina Vankova
Sabina Vankova

I'm not surprised, the majority of Conservative MPs are very liberal, including David Cameron

Matthew Clark
Matthew Clark

That poses a more important question. What is our stance in future should we be in the King maker position again? Walk away and leave another party in minority government, or strike a better deal and be more independent of that government?

Simon Fox
Simon Fox

Hopefully the public will see sence we have the economic credability and the fairness, trouble is the tories are peddaling they took people out of income tax, its coming un stuck for them with Ossy,s budget fiasco

Elizabeth Grant
Elizabeth Grant

If we had agreed I would have left the party! Cons were up a creek without a paddle in 2012 and scared they would not be re-elected. We would definitely have been 'enablers' then and our genuine motivation to save the country from an economic disaster when we formed the Coalition would have rung hollow then.

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