In the era of Blair-style landslides, the likes and loves of backbench MPs mattered little: the government’s majority was big enough to force through most votes. But the loyalty of Tory MPs to a coalition government is untested. Sitting underneath a framed copy of Baroness Thatcher’s signature, Mr Brady says that the Lib-Con deal has changed everything. ‘A majority government can largely presume the consent of its MPs,’ he says. ‘A coalition government cannot.’The new Prime Minister has taken to walking the House of Commons alone, shaking hands with MPs, in a way he never did before. He used to have Sir Michael Spicer, the former chair of the 1922 Committee, to be his link man with the party — or Andrew MacKay, his backbench spy. Both stood down at the last election. Mr Brady says that, under his chairmanship, the 1922 Committee would rebuild this link. ‘We need to get into the habit of talking to each other again,’ he says — not even pretending that the Cameron leadership talks to the Tory party at present. ‘We need to get into the habit of talking much more fully in advance of decisions being taken. If we are going to make this coalition arrangement work — which is not going to be easy over the five years envisaged — then it will only work if we can really manage the relationships within the party effectively.’
Some of the coalition ideas, he suggests, may be been the result of sleep deprivation (‘There were time pressures and a lot of tired people locked in rooms for too long’). He had not heard that Mr Cameron intends to whip the vote on 55 per cent, but seems not to care. ‘This has to be left to the judgment of individual MPs,’ he says. ‘This is a significant constitutional innovation that was not in our manifesto, nor anyone else’s.’ It is a simple test: why should MPs be whipped and forced to vote for a policy not suggested at the election?
‘There’s a very significant problem in trying to create a new rule that locks in a government or a parliament. Then there are tactical concerns, the “zombie government” one of the most important. If you have genuine goodwill, if you have men of honour meeting together, then why can they not simply give a commitment that they won’t break the deal? So no, I was very concerned about this 55 per cent rule.’