If the coalition suits David Cameron so well, how can he make it more likely that it will endure?
Last week, I suggested that the enthusiasm with which Prime Minister David Cameron has embraced his new Liberal Democrat partners hinted that coalition might have been the election outcome he wanted all along.
If I’m totally honest, I don’t think there is any ‘might’ about it. As several other commentators have remarked over the past week, Mr Cameron is clearly more at ease with his Lib Dem deputy Nick Clegg than he is with most of his own backbenchers.
Had he succeeded in gaining a narrow overall majority on 6 May, Mr Cameron would now be at the mercy of a bunch of hardline right-wingers, much in the way that John Major was throughout the 1992 Parliament.
The answer is by supporting the Alternative Vote when the referendum agreed as part of the coalition deal takes place.
In the short term this would make it more likely that the public would vote for the Alternative Vote and thus make it less likely that the Liberal Democrats would break up the coalition after a year or two.
And in the long term - and far more intriguingly - if the next election were fought under the Alternative Vote system it would make it possible for the coalition to be maintained even in the campaign.
For David Cameron would be able to say something like this to Liberal Democrat voters:
If you are a convinced Liberal Democrat supporter then you should, of course, vote for them. But if you think the coalition has provided good government and would like to see it continue in the next parliament, I would ask you to consider giving your second preference to the Conservative candidate.Nick Clegg could make a similar appeal to Conservative voters.
Note that there would be no need for anyone to stand down or to moderate their attacks on the other party locally. Such an arrangement would dispense with all the angst and sacrifice of the Alliance years.
Note too that such an arrangement would be of more use to David Cameron than to Nick Clegg. There are far more Conservative/Labour marginals that could be decided by Liberal Democrat second preference votes that their are Labour/Lib Dem marginals that could be decided by Conservative second preferences.
He's a clever politician, that David Cameron. The only problem is that Alternative Vote might be so good for the Conservatives that he would find himself with an overall majority after the next election and thus "at the mercy of a bunch of hardline right-wingers".