James Forsyth James Forsyth

How the coalition plans to recover

This morning’s battle of the political odd couples shows the dangerous direction in which the AV referendum is going for the coalition. The Yes campaign are becoming ever closer to making explicit the argument that a yes vote is the best way to keep the Tories out. For their part, the No side are continuing to hammer the compromises of coalition and the unfairness of the party in third place determining the result. In other words, no more Lib Dems in government.

These campaign strategies mean that the result of the referendum will be seen as a decisive rejection of one side or other of the coalition. This is precisely what Cameron and Clegg wanted to avoid and why for months there was talk of a couple of Conservative ministers joining the yes campaign, an idea that was only abandoned when it was grasped just how damaging a yes vote would be to Cameron’s standing in the Tory party.

The days after May 5th will be the period of maximum danger for the coalition. So far, the main coalition initiative for this second week in May seems to be some big plan on youth unemployment which is being handed up by Jeremy Heywood, Cameron’s favourite civil servant. But more might be needed to steady the ship.

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