Peter Hoskin

Meetings galore

Meetings galore
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All of a sudden, the coalition partners can't get enough of their backbenchers.  Last night, it was David Cameron meeting the 1922 Committee to reassure them about their mutual relationship.  And, today, Nick Clegg is going on an "away day" with that half of his party which isn't in government, all to explain his close affair with the Tories.  Presumably, flowers and chocolates will be involved.

The Clegg meeting, in particular, is worth dwelling on – and Sam Coates and Greg Hurst do just that in an insightful article for this morning's Times.  For those who can't travel beyond the paywall, here's the line which stands out: "Lib Dem MPs will be warned that history shows that small parties that walk out of a coalition are destroyed at the polls." Even at this stage, that's a strikingly unequivocal position for the Lib Dem leadership to take. The clear implication is that anything less than a five-year partnership will finish off the yellow bird of liberty.

Although the backbenchers won't get everything that they want in the forthcoming months and years, these meetings still demonstrate their unique power during a time of coalition.  Simple fact is, Cameron and Clegg need to keep their parties sweet to maintain the government's shelf-life – something which Blair and Brown barely ever needed to consider.  The welcome upshot could be a more collegiate form of government than we've been used to during the past 13 years.