The front page of yesterday’s Telegraph splashed that David Cameron had said there would not be another coalition after the next election. The article actually said, that the Telegraph “has learnt” that the Prime Minister “wants to make a commitment” not to sign another coalition deal if there is another hung parliament next May. “It is understood”; and,
“He’s very clear, he doesn’t want another Coalition,” a source close to Mr Cameron has told The Telegraph…
In September, [David Cameron] said: “I don’t want another coalition. I want a Conservative majority.”
Which is a step or three down from a quote of a decision, and really you wouldn’t expect a Prime Minster or party leader to say anything less than that they wanted a majority.
But more to the point, I’m not really sure that that decision is – or ever could be – in the hands of any one (serious) party or person.
Jesse Norman has an interesting yet very obvious theory that voters basically get it right when they vote in general elections. During the 1970s those tiny majorities meant that change could happen relatively easily and the government had to tread very cautiously. From 1979 onwards, Margaret Thatcher was obviously the right Prime Minister. In 1992, it was right that John Major continued in office instead of Neil Kinnock’s Labour. In 1997, the Tories were out of steam and Blair’s Labour held out so much promise. 2001 – we hadn’t sorted ourselves out. 2005, I remember hearing at the time, depended on under 150,000 swing voters who clearly didn’t believe we were ready for office.
And 2010, Labour was clearly done but voters weren’t sure we had achieved the recalibration that we had promised, so they voted for us with the Lib Dems (there’s some interesting work to be done on the wisdom of crowds there).
Two things have always been clear since this Coalition took office. Firstly that in future elections, both the media and political parties would consider (and question) much more thoroughly what their red lines would be in any negotiations, and secondly that there would have to be much greater consultation and agreement before any such agreements could be signed.
Perhaps most important though is Jesse Norman’s point – that it’s voters who decide. This should be the most obvious thing in the world but it isn’t always. Politicians don’t control everything, and it is we voters who will get to decide who is in parliament and therefore who forms the next election.
Right since May 2010, polling has consistently shown that more voters support the (concept of) the coalition than not; Lord Ashcroft’s recent poll suggests that in fact voters are more supportive of a coalition than either a Labour or a Conservative majority.
And that surely is the point. On 7 May 2015, voters will decide. We will choose who is in Parliament based on many different beliefs, experiences, prejudices and persuasions. So saying we want a majority is one thing. Doing what is necessary to achieve it is another.