Every Conservative should wish the Liberal Democrats a successful conference in Glasgow this week and not from any misplaced sense of coalition loyalty. The poor souls are on a pathetic 7 per cent in the polls, against 23 per cent in the general election. The Tories’ embrace has proven toxic for them. Yes, it was daft of Nick Clegg to agree to the (absurd) Tory ring fencing of health at the expense of his tuition fees pledge – and yes, he has paid the price for this historic misjudgement. Did he think people would ever forget his making promises like this one?
But no Tory can be happy that he has now lost two-thirds of his party’s support, because the lion’s share of the deserters have gone to Ed Miliband – thereby uniting the left for the first time in three decades.
Uniting the left is the main price which the Tories have paid for going into coalition with the LibDems. It did not really put handcuffs on the Prime Minister – in reality, David Cameron has done almost all of what he (as opposed to his party) wanted done. The real harm was that the act of coalition sent about 2.5 million LibDem voters to Labour – giftwrapped with love from No10.
But Ed Miliband’s disastrous conference in Manchester may make leftie voters look for another home for their votes. The better the LibDems do at presenting themselves as the repository for such votes, the better Cameron’s chances at the next election. So if LibDems snarl at the Tories this weeek, and present their partners as vicious brutes quite unrecognisable from the huskie-huggers with which they entered coalition in 2010, then it’ll be annoying.