David Cameron is keen to demonstrate his willingness to give straight answers to straight questions at the moment. But there is a limit to his candour. Anyone who asks him about whether he’s preparing for another hung parliament will be told that he’s not thinking about, that he’s going all out for a majority.
However, the Spectator knows of two conversations that David Cameron has had about what he would do in a hung parliament in recent weeks. In both of these, his message was the same: he would rather do another coalition than attempt to run a minority government. For this reason, Cameron won’t—as Boris Johnson suggested he should this week—rule out another coalition.
Last autumn, senior Tories were very bullish about the prospect of running a minority government. One figure at Number 10 talked about the ‘f off number’, the number of MPs they would need to govern without the Liberal Democrats. But the more they thought about it, the more they saw the drawbacks to a minority government.
The coalition is also in a better place now than it was then, the prospect of parting seems to have brought the two sides together. The Budget demonstrated that the two party leaderships can still work together and the last coalition Cabinet meeting was more au revoir than adieu. Tory ministers listened as Nick Clegg talked about how together they had proved that coalition governments could work. As one of those present put it, ‘it was a bit of love in’.
Cameron will charge round the country over the next six weeks trying to win a majority. But if he doesn’t—and even Tory Cabinet Minister don’t think he will--and the arithmetic works, don’t bet against Cameron and Clegg trying to get another coalition past their respective parties.