In one of the more engaging Westminster recess stories, it has emerged that David Cameron is looking into changing Conservative Party rules on how proposals for a coalition agreement in 2015 would be put to backbenchers. Under ideas the Prime Minister has apparently discussed with Cabinet Ministers, backbench Conservatives would be consulted on the content of a new coalition deal and would vote on the final draft of an agreement.
The idea is to make a future coalition agreement easier to strike. As the FT’s Kiran Stacey has noted in his blog, the facts of the story are interesting if perhaps unsurprising, and the Daily Telegraph, which reported the story, has suggested in its editorial leader that such discussions are entirely sensible and represent prudent planning, motivated by a desire to get the ‘buy-in’ of Conservative MPs on a coalition agreement in 2015 and reduce the potential for backbench sniping. But this leaves unanswered questions, not least of which is whether Conservative backbenchers might see such manoeuvrings as tantamount to David Cameron accepting that an outright Conservative majority in 2015 is beyond his reach.
The latter would likely be a tough pill for the Conservative rank and file, let alone Parliamentarians, to accept, buoyed as they are by a succession of positive figures that suggest greater cause for economic optimism and the widespread consensus that they and not Labour have had the better of the summer ‘silly season’. Indeed, while Labour still holds a lead in the opinion polls, many Conservatives will feel now, more than perhaps at any point since May 2010, that Labour is beatable and will want, if not expect, an outright majority in 2015 that many believed was eminently achievable in 2010.
Any suggestion to the contrary may serve as a shock to the system, and the delicate balance the Prime Minister will have to achieve is undertaking what is prudent planning while making sure there is no suggestion that this is taking priority over the pursuit of outright electoral victory.