Well, I have to admit I’m surprised. I expected the Conservatives to want to go it alone, ruling as a minority government, rather than enter into any formal coalitions. But in his speech a few minutes ago, David Cameron made it clear that while he was prepared to take the ‘confidence and supply’ option if necessary, he would prefer to join forces with the Lib Dems, and would be seeking an agreement with them as soon as possible.
He laid out a few Tory non-negotiables: no more powers ceded to the EU, immigration control (i.e. no amnesty), and national defence (i.e. renewing trident). But most of his speech was concerned with the areas he thought the Tories could work with the Lib Dems: introducing a pupil premium for disadvantaged youngsters within a funding-follows-the-child school system; moving to a low carbon economy; raising the income tax personal allowance; protecting civil liberties and getting rid of ID cards; and reforming the political and electoral system. On that last point, he made clear the Conservatives remained committed to first-past-the-post, but called for an ‘all party committee of enquiry’ on the voting system. He finished by reiterating his 100 percent commitment to getting started on tackling the deficit now.
So how do I feel about this? Actually quite positive. Many people have talked about how a Lib Dem–Labour coalition would be a ‘progressive’ alliance against conservatism. But could a Tory-Lib Dem pact actually signal a far more welcome realignment of British politics – a union of liberals against statists and authoritarians? Perhaps that is going too far. I know that any British government, whatever its composition, is going to be more statist than I would like. But maybe for classical liberals like me, this will at least be a government we can do business with.
Hat-tip to Guido – who seems to share my optimism – for the picture.