Mark Oaten, whose repellent activities might be thought to have cast him into the outer realms with the rest of the politically undead such as Robert Kilroy-Silk and George Galloway, has gone into print today in The Times espousing the virtues of a coalition with the LibDems.

The very last thing the Tories should do in the event of a hung Parliament at the next election of allow themselves to be seduced into a marriage of convenience with the Leftist LibDems. I will come to my reasons for so saying in a moment, but let us look at the merits of what this Oaten has to say.

Coalitions are difficult, uncertain and potentially deeply destabilising for both the country and the parties involved. That is why it is wrong to call for Sir Ming Campbell’s departure. His intellect, experience and calm approach is just what the Liberal Democrats will need to navigate the tricky waters of a hung parliament.

Whilst the last thing The Conservatives need is to lose Mr. Zimmerman, the LibDems may find that his obvious preference for Labour is a serious obstacle. LibDems have shown precious little skill in navigating the waters of coalition in Wales and Scotland: why should the UK Parliament be any different?

But Ming needs to come out now and state that, in the event of a hung Parliament, the Liberal Democrats will work with whichever party has the most MPs.

That is precisely the problem with the LibDems: they are much like the village bicycle – everyone gets to have a chance of riding on it.

Many people may be surprised by how much shared agenda there is between the two parties.

If one thinks about the major matters of policy rather than the marginal detail, there is frankly nothing much in common with the LibDems. They are a High Tax, Nanny State sort of party and we Conservatives are not. That the lobbies may be shared from time to time is neither here nor there. Since the days of the Lib-Lab pact under Callaghan the Liberals and now the LibDems have naturally gravitated towards Labour not the Conservatives and Brown plainly regards them as a party he can get his leg over.

However, Ming’s relations with Mr Cameron are not as close as with Mr Brown: he has made more personal attacks on Mr Cameron and gone out of his way to dismiss talk of a deal with the Conservatives. This should not be a given. Ming must not allow his close relationship with his Fife neighbour and airport lounge companion to cloud his judgment about which of the two main parties we can work most effectively with to defend and prosecute a liberal agenda.

The problem is that his friendship with Brown is of longstanding and by now too close for him to backtrack on and suddenly discover he loves David Cameron: that would be seen as the very worst sort of rank opportunism, which is exactly what it would be.

If the next Parliament is a hung Parliament, then the Tories should have no truck with the LibDems. By then Labour will have become thoroughly unpopular. It would be far better to let the LibDems to be seen to give them succour and sustain them in their hour of unpopularity and for that unpopularity to rub off on them: after all that would be just desserts for all the aid and comfort which the LibDems have given to Labour over the last thirty years. A minority government will stagger on for a while but will in due course run out of puff and then the Conservatives can drive a stake through the LibDem heart sweeping them out of the various niches they have carved out for themselves in recent years.

David Cameron would be right to keep his counsel on this matter for now: let them be kept guessing. But that the LibDems, even through the medium of a disgraced MP, should be thinking about what they will do in the event of a hung Parliament suggests they are beginning to feel the draught of plunging poll figures and are looking to save their scrawny necks by pimping themselves all round the block.

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