The prospect of a post-election UKIP Conservative coalition is something which may have seemed quite enticing to many on the Eurosceptic wing on the Conservative Party. However this possibility has been quashed by Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps who has ruled out any pacts or deals with UKIP. With the polls still pointing towards a hung parliament, this appears a bold move.
The Conservative Party will claim that they are fighting for an overall majority but privately accept that their chances of achieving this appear slim. There does remain a possibility though that they could be the largest party in a hung parliament. In this case they would have the first opportunity to form a new government and would be left with two options; running a minority government or attempting to form another coalition.
With UKIP seemingly ruled out, the most likely coalition partner for the Conservatives would again be the Liberal Democrats. For this deal to succeed a number of hurdles would have to be overcome. Firstly the parliamentary numbers would need to work to provide a stable government. There would also have to be an appetite on both sides; policies they could agree on; and an improvement in current relations. Overcoming all these problems to secure the support of both parliamentary parties will not be easy.
The other option would be a minority administration. The rumours are this is the option many in the Conservative Party would prefer and are leaning towards. This would rely on keeping the party together, which may prove easier said than done and would require doing deals behind the scenes with other parties. A minority government would lack stability and leave the party open to the whims of others, running the risk of being overthrown at any stage.
The Conservatives have emerged from the current coalition bruised, but seemingly unscathed. Whilst perhaps not seeking to rush into another coalition, it will certainly be an option should the election deliver another hung parliament. There is little doubt that the Conservative Party are considering all their options, but with a coalition deal with UKIP ruled out and any deal with the SNP a non-starter their options appear limited. For that reason alone do not be shocked to see Cameron and Clegg reach another agreement. The marriage between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats may not be over yet.
Article by Mike Hough
Photograph – The Independent