Coalition government is also tearing the Conservatives apart

by Darrell Goodliffe

In Oldham East & Saddleworth, it seems that the Conservative campaign is not all that it should be. This brings into sharp focus an issue that receives little media attention because of the political problems of the Lib Dems.

There are some who believe that it is unlikely to be a Liberal Democrat rebellion that brings down the Tory-Lib Dem government. They are already far too wedded to its fate to be the ones that wield the axe. They also know that a vengeful electorate is waiting, eager to exact retribution for the Liberals’ broken promises.

The force most likely to explode the coalition is found not in Nick Clegg’s aptly yellow party, but on the Conservative benches. It is a right-wing force which includes many of the new intake. Truly Thatcher’s children, these people clearly did not expect to be sharing government with anybody. Least of all a party they regard as rather “wet”. They are not “coalition” politicians and never will be. They see it as a barrier to, not an enabler of, radical change.

As one new backbencher told the Daily Telegraph:

“We came to this place to try to achieve something, to have a voice, and we find that we have no say. We are sick of being taken for granted”.

If it were just the old guard, then maybe Cameron would have little to worry about. But the new intake is already active, vocal and unusually influential on the backbench 1922 committee. No wonder one of Cameron’s first acts was to attempt to neuter it. However, the formation of a new centre of opposition within the Conservatives is far from out of the question. Last week’s vote on tuition fees will only increase this group’s anger with its Lib Dem partners. They are an “unreliable” irritant, as the fees vote confirmed.

So-called “mainstream Conservatism”, as championed by the likes of Conservative Home, reviles both the Liberal Democrats and the liberal wing of the Conservative party equally. It deplores “liberal conservatives’ embarrassment about traditional Tory positions on immigration”. It sees arguments, made by the likes of John Major, for a more permanent coalition as a chance to isolate and separate the liberal wing of the party. Not just from the rank-and-file but also from the bulk of Conservative MPs.

Cameron’s isolation within his own party will force him into tighter bonds with the Liberal Democrats. Everybody has mooted the prospect of a new party emerging out of the Liberal Democrat left. But who has considered the possibility that it may be not the left but the right that breaks away from a marriage of convenience?

Rather than two parties in government there could be at least three proto-parties: the Liberal Democrat left, the Cameroons and Clegg loyalists and the Conservative right or “mainstream Conservatives”. Each could go their separate ways come the next election. If they do, then this coalition may well spell the long-term end of both parties. It could usher in a kind of new politics that neither Cameron nor Clegg envisaged during those five infamous days in May.

Darrell Goodliffe writes the Moments of Clarity blog.

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4 Responses to “Coalition government is also tearing the Conservatives apart”

  1. William says:

    Regretably, the chance of a Labour party, led by EM, winning a general election is low.

  2. Darrell says:


    I agree. I have my doubts about Ed too…..

  3. Chris says:


    LOL, william as he is a thatcher-loving, blairite/proto-tory and from your blog it seems you’re a bit of a leftie. Ed is attacked from both sides 🙁

  4. Mark2 says:

    Of course if the Tory right have any sense (always an issue!)they will sit tight and wait for the Lib Dems to bring down the coalition, something whih looks abit mmroe likely today than even a few weeks ago. Sadly, and for reasons other blogs on this excellent site make clear, Labour is in no positon to take advantage of the situation and the Tories would win a subsequent election. The right would then be in a rather better postion to press forward – Cameron’s need to appease the Lib Dems havng disappeared.

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