Peter Hoskin

Slapping down the pact

Slapping down the pact
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Here's one of the most striking leitmotifs of the Lib Dem conference: how party figures are rushing to slap down talk of an electoral pact between themselves and the Tories. Vince Cable was at it yesterday, writing in the Independent on Sunday that:

"Our parties remain totally independent and will compete in future national and local elections."

To some extent, this isn't surprising. The Lib Dems could hardly go around beating the drum for a pact, some five years before polling day. But the 100 percent certainty of their denials still jars with the "no plans" ambiguity of No.10 on this issue. Question is: is there a real difference of opinion between the Tory and the Lib Dem halves of the coalition when it comes to a pact?

My guess is that a pact remains a possibility for all sides, but that the Lib Dems are more eager to assert their independence for now. As Mike Smithson says over at Political Betting, all the speculation gives Clegg a very useful fox to shoot – whether by design or not.