Saturday, 2 March 2013

We should not welcome a Conservative Party implosion

There was a cartoon in Punch after the death of Stalin. Mao had been piqued at not being recognised by the Russians as the natural successor as leader of world communism and there had been some sabre-rattling on their shared border. The cartoon (by Emmwood or Illingworth, I can't remember which) showed western leaders rolling with laughter in their seats or cheering while Mao and Khrushchev faced off in the aisle. Pointedly, each of the communist leaders was carrying a bomb and the scene was a passenger plane in mid-air.

Many LibDems have accompanied their joy at Mike Thornton winning in Eastleigh with glee at the effect the result has had on the Conservatives. Being pushed into third place by UKIP has led to calls from Tory commentators in the media - and some within the Conservative party - for Cameron to be deposed as leader. These articles have been reposted on Facebook and in some Liberal Democrat blogs. While it is understandable to revel in our political opponents' discomfiture and the probable benefits in Conservative-held constituencies where Liberal Democrats are challengers, I suggest that in the short term civil war among our coalition partners could lead to an economic plane crash.

Consider the outcome of a successful challenge to David Cameron (always assuming that party rules still allow this): it is probable that the successor will be a "dry", instinctively opposed to coalition with a more liberal party. At the least, he or she will seek to renegotiate the coalition agreement on terms which Liberal Democrat leaders would find unacceptable. More likely, they will outright repudiate the agreement. It is unlikely that there will be enough votes in the Commons to force a dissolution, so we would be stuck with a minority government, horse-trading from day to day to get its programme through.

The main raison d'etre for the coalition was the stability it would bring to the economy and the restoration of confidence in UK Ltd on the part of our creditors and trading partners. Those would be jeopardised by the premature end of the coalition.

The situation in late 2014 will, one trusts, be rather different. With UK borrowing beginning to plateau, normal political hostilities may resume.

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