May 7 2010: Cameron making his offer to the LDs
On Friday I took part in a conference panel with Paul Staines and the respected city analyst, David Buik. He made a statement which we’ve heard before from Conservative supporters that Cameron’s big mistake was making his offer to the Lib Dems on the day after the last general election.
Buik, and others including a number of Tory MPs and commentators, have argued that the minority Tory government would not have lasted very long but Cameron would have been able to secure an overall majority in a second 2010 general election in the same way that Harold Wlson just did in 1974
A big factor, it’s been argued, is that the Conservatives were far better placed financially to fight a second general election in such a short space of time.
Where this analysis falls down, I’d suggest, is that the chronology of events would never have presented an opportunity for a minority Conservative government to be possible.
Brown had all the cards in his hand on May 7th 2010. The Tories had failed to win a majority and there was no obligation on him to go to the palace and recommend to the Queen that Cameron should be invited to form a government.
The main pressure on Brown was to get some sort of arrangement in place before the Queen’s speech due a week and a half later. My guess is that there would have been intensive discussions with the Lib Dems in which it became clear that there would be no support for Labour to continue in power while Brown was still at the helm.
This would have led, however reluctantly, to Gordon agreeing to step aside maybe after a leadership contest to find a successor had been completed. The LDs would have won some concessions perhaps to allow a supply and confidence arrangement to be agreed. The Queen’s Speech would have been approved by the new Commons.
That government would have struggled on for a few months because the numbers were extraordinarily tight. Brown’s successor, probably David Miliband, would have gone to the country in October 2010.
How would Labour have done without Brown? Would Cameron still have been CON leader if he’d not become PM after GE2010?
The point, of course, is that in May 2010 the chances are Cameron would never have had the option of pursuing a Conservative minority government.
It was only because of the coalition deal on Tuesday May 11th 2010 that Brown had to go to the palace to suggest to Her Majesty that Mr. Cameron be asked to form a government.
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