During the elections, I was heard melodramatically saying that I would have to be jailed before voting Lib Dem. But even I have to admit that making a home in the Tory tent feels uncertain these days when we are presented with the current potpourri of political ideologies and colours.
I get the Conservative Home e-mail every day, but I’m addicted to reading Norman Tebbit to understand the chain of events. I reproduce part of his most current article found on Daily Telegraph blogs. http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100039171/clever-mr-clegg-gobbled-up-the-tories-concessions-then-sprang-his-trap/
[Update: I've just seen that David Cameron has told the Lib Dems to put up or shut up. That's the right thing for him to say.]
The roots of the continental-style electoral shambles afflicting this kingdom go deep. Sufficient to say for the moment that the Conservatives polled 10.6 million votes, more than 3 million fewer than they regularly scored through the postwar era. Labour scored 8.6 million against Blair’s 1997 total of 13.5 million. This is their lowest total (with the exception of 8.4 million in 1983) since 1935. In contrast, the Lib Dems did well with 6.8 million, but still not as well as the Alliance (their parent party) who scored 7.8 million in 1983 and 7.3 million in 1987 against Margaret Thatcher.
I know that I am in danger of becoming a bore by going on about the numbers, rather than the percentages of votes cast for the parties, but the numbers of votes cast for a party are akin to the cash flow of a company. The percentages are more like the profit and loss account, which as we know can easily be used to distract shareholders from a falling cash flow, until the cash runs out and the business goes bust.
It was the failure of Cameron’s Conservatives to get back to the historic levels of support for the party which left him vulnerable to Mr Clegg. But it has to be said that Mr Clegg has played his hand with great skill.
Once Mr Cameron had rejected the advice of some of us who had seen all this before (or even read of it) to sit tight and make plain his willingness to form a minority government and go it alone, he was at the mercy of Mr Clegg.
The Tory team were easily led to believe that Mr Clegg had no option but to support a Tory-led coalition, or to subside into parliamentary impotence. In fact, they had. A Lib Dem-NuLab coalition with the support of other “progressive” nationalist parties could be cobbled together and once Mr Clegg had gobbled up all the Tories’ concessions, he sprang his trap. It was announced that he had secured even more from NuLab, including the resignation of the Prime Minister himself. Now he is back to the Tories, suggesting that they might like to entice him into their planned coalition with a few more goodies. The Tories may have thought that they were the only bidders for the favours of Mr Clegg, but now they know they were not.
The next step in this drama could be a call from Mr Clegg explaining that he could not sell the deal he had made with the Tories to the Lib Dem Party (which has a veto on such matters). Sadly, he would say to Mr Cameron, with whom we are told he gets along very well, that he would have to have a few more concessions, or he would have to go off with NuLab.
At that stage, as he looked at the scalp of Mr Brown displayed prominently on Mr Clegg’s belt, Mr Cameron might begin to feel very uneasy indeed. It would be one thing to sacrifice Mr. Osborne to make Mr Cable the Chancellor, or Mr. Hague to make Mr Clegg Foreign Secretary, but there are limits, you know.
So there are a number of twists and turns that may yet come in this plot.
In the meantime, Mr Darling has come back from Brussels having had another £10 billion or so added to our contingent liabilities. What an appetite for cash the EU elephant has!
Lord Tebbit’s article is available in full: