Alex Massie

Do the Deal, Dave

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Tories are supposed to be pragmatists. That's why they're the traditional party of coalition in this country. On that front, it is interesting to see that John Major is suggesting that, to advance the cause of stability, Cameron should offer Clegg a number of cabinet seats. This seems sensible and, happily, would also improve the quality of the cabinet since, lord knows, there are a good number of Tories who ought to be kept well away from the Red Boxes.

More interestingly still, it was notable today how both Dan Hannan and Douglas Carswell were warm on the idea of a coalition and even, if necessary, some kind of electoral reform. Of course, they're both liberals, not social conservatives and as such are less tribal, perhaps, than some. Nevertheless, since it seems to me that Cameron doesn't need to offer much on electoral reform, the costs of going for a real deal are tiny when set beside the potential benefits of such an arrangement.

As we've noted here before on matters such as tax reform, spending restraint, civil liberties, pupil premiums and education reform, localism, decentralisation and much of the rest of the "Big Society" agenda there's an awful lot of common ground between the parties and more than enough to form a pretty robust Programme for Government.

So why not go for it? Power is power and if the Lib Dems show they're not interested in it purely because they don't get everything they wnt on an issue as comparatively esoteric as changing the voting system then that's their choice and their lookout. But it won't end well for them and I suspect that unless they do a deal with the Conservatives the Liberal Democrats will be squeezed viciously in the next election.

It's advantage Cameron: he can gain a reasonably stable coalition and spread the political cost of painful spending cuts without, I think, having to give very much up that is very or even terribly significant. And if Clegg refuses then he looks small and cameron looks the bigger, more generous, even statesmanlike candidate.

Again, it's Clegg, not Cameron that's in the most difficult position.

UPDATE: Seems Tom Clougherty and Guido are also in the liberal Let's Do a Deal camp. So is Charlotte Gore.

UPDATE: Danny Finkelstein has an ingenious offer for the Lib Dems too.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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