In a Tory party that has always favoured single-minded leadership, the options for representing rank-and-file views are few, particularly as the chairmanship of the 1922 committee remains vacant. As a result, many senior MPs have been reduced to calling hacks to find out what is actually going on. The matter has not been helped by the fact that many do not trust the chief negotiators, William Hague, George Osborne and Oliver Letwin, to represent the party’s interest – and to tell David Cameron when he is wrong or willing to trade too much.
This could eventually cause a serious problem for Cameron. The Tory leader clearly feels secure at the moment, having no credible rival in the parliamentary party. He also knows that some 100 new MPs owe their seats to him, while he has delivered a historic swing in the election. But in the party, there is a feeling that Team Cameron did not roll with the electoral punches. The Tory leader’s advantage will also be eroded over time, as new MPs gain their voice and alternative leaders emerge, while the resentment over how Team Cameron has treated many MPs will likely linger, particularly if a Con-Lib government gives the Lib Dems a number of key Cabinet jobs.
Finally, there is a danger that a Con-Lib deal will favour the Lib Dems both in the short and long-term. In the short-term, Lib Dem ministers will have better access to their leader and by extension the Prime Minister, than they will. In the long-term, a fixed-term coalition will likely lead to a Con-Lib electoral pact in the 2015 election – which will hurt many Conservative MPs who face tough competition from the Lib Dems.
Even if you, like me, believe that David Cameron’s transformation of the party was right, the swing he achieved impressive and the deal-making with the Lib Dems the correct course to take, then it is still clear that the Tory leadership will have to do a lot more out-reach and stroking of rank-and-file feathers than it is currently doing.