Peter Hoskin

The coalition must tread carefully over electoral pacts

The coalition must tread carefully over electoral pacts
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Well, Mark Field has certainly got Westminster talking with his suggestion that the Lib Dems and Conservatives might not oppose each other in marginal seats come 2015. It's the kind of idea that has been sloshing around for a few weeks now, but having it relayed through a Tory MP's blog post gives it a little extra punch.

And so plenty of questions abound. What would this mean under AV? Who would do better out of it? Is it sensible for both parties to effectively make the next election a referendum on the coalition? etc. etc. But one question doesn't seem to be getting enough airtime: what would this mean for the voters themselves?

You see, these electoral pacts may, more or less, make sense when it comes to strengthening the coalition. But imagine being a traditional Lib Dem voter who is denied the chance to vote yellow, or a traditional Tory voter who can't go blue. Whatever your views on the coalition (and mine are largely positive), it can't be denied that many people would prefer to vote according to what separates the two parties, rather than what binds them together. These people might feel let down if they have to vote for someone standing on a coalition ticket, especially when there has been no formal merger between the two parties - and other voters, in other constituencies, are getting a choice which has been denied to them.  

Of course, all of this remains speculation as yet. But the Tories and Lib Dems should still be mindful of these potential problems when they start to turn their attention to 2015. They have come to power talking, and in many cases doing, a "new politics". That new politics may have room for pacts and ploys, but it could leave some voters feeling disenfranchised in its wake.