The absurdity of a Coalition electoral pact
Apparently, there is a book advocating lasting Conservative-LibDem fusion; a majority of Conservatives favour a ‘non-aggression pact’ in key marginals; and Paul Goodman at ConservativeHome is ‘not unsympathetic’ to the idea of a pact.
His Grace would like to nip this fatuous idea in the bud directly.
It is not that there are not some genuine areas of agreement between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties: there are, not least because of their long shared heritage of Whig and Tory disparities which have occasionally been so nuanced as to permit Churchill to defect (and re-defect) and Thatcher to claim Gladstone as her political soul-mate. Liberalism and Toryism are not mutually exclusive, and the Conservative Party has evolved as a ‘broad church’ expression of competing wings held in tension.
But one could also find accord in the stated objectives of the Conservative and Labour parties, or the Conservatives and UKIP, or the Conservatives and the Greens, or the Conservatives and the BNP.
Political parties do not generally go into an election seeking actively to cause unemployment, increase poverty, make industry less competitive or foment social division.
They do not generally differ in their stated macro-objectives, but they manifestly do in the foundational political theories by which those objectives might be attained.
Or they used to.
The Coalition has no permanent cohesive political theory: it is the product of temporary necessity to reduce the deficit. It is a bit more than a one-night stand, but it is not a foundation for marriage.
There is more than a whiff of continental ‘Christian Democracy’ in this idea, which is founded upon a notion of ‘social justice’ quite antithetical to that which Conservatives have traditionally espoused: Anglo-Saxon One-Nation Toryism is not synonymous with continental Christian Democracy.
Setting aside for one moment Mr Goodman’s list of known unknowns, it is doubtful that even the Conservative Party’s constitutional (‘Hague’) reforms grant the Party Board this degree of omnipotence. Of course they control candidates (and their selection), so they would not ultimately have to ‘persuade’ any loyal Conservative to stand aside in favour of a LibDem; they would simply order it on pain of deselection and with the threat of placing the local association in ‘support status’.
But the Conservative Party’s appetite for power demands electoral victory; that thirst for victory is predicated upon fighting every constituency; and fighting every constituency necessitates fielding a Conservative candidate in every seat.
And if the Conservative Party does not do so, there will be quite a few ‘Independent Conservatives’ crawling out of the woodwork to stand against an agreed Coalition candidate.
And His Grace would be among the first.
And this would not breach Party rules (causing expulsion) because there would be no Conservative candidate contesting the seat and so one would not be standing against the Party.
Unless, of course, the Party Board re-writes the rules under the aegis of its own Lisbon self-amending passerelle clause.
But the age of centralisation is over.