The Tory government is trying to strike another dirty deal to shore up its majority in parliament. According to The Times, the Conservative Party has approached the Liberal Democrats for support on votes. And some elements in the latter party are all for it.
The Lib Dems faced electoral oblivion in 2015 after participating in a coalition with the Conservatives from 2010 onwards. But despite that recent burning, some in the party are now allegedly [paywall] “open to discussion” and “all ears” if the Tories want to seek support on a vote-by-vote basis.
The Conservative Party fell short of gaining a majority in the 2017 general election. So the party arranged a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland to shore up its base. The arrangement with the DUP’s 10 MPs is controversial as it could threaten the Good Friday Agreement, which brought relative peace to the region.
Theresa May called ex-Prime Minister David Cameron to “beg” him to back her in that deal, sources say. He obliged shortly after:
Task facing PM, given the circs, is to deliver the most stable govt possible – today's DUP deal helps achieve that. All Cons should support.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) June 26, 2017
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But now, May’s new Chief of Staff Gavin Barwell has apparently spoken [paywall] with his Lib Dem counterpart to ask for help in passing legislation too. The Tory Party confirmed [paywall] to The Times that it had talked to the Lib Dems “about working together on areas on which they agree”. The Murdoch-owned paper also quoted a Lib Dem source saying [paywall]:
Gavin said that there were possibilities for joint working on areas of the Queen’s Speech. He mentioned mental health. Where we agree I imagine we’re open to discussion.
Our manifesto suggests we need to raise tax to pay for the NHS and we’re clear we think there should be a cross-party funding agreement on the NHS. If Theresa May’s team want to reach out on a cross-party basis we are all ears.
A Lib Dem spokesperson reiterated [paywall] that Tim Farron had said there “will be no coalitions, no pacts, no deals”. Farron, however, announced his resignation as party leader on 14 June. The party’s Twitter account also posted the following about The Times‘ story:
This isn't true. They bumped into each other and made small talk. Nothing about working together or deals https://t.co/QOdOiW6T3q
— Lib Dem Press Office (@LibDemPress) July 4, 2017
The anonymous Lib Dem source’s positive spin is, frankly, laughable. The Tories have indeed pledged to improve mental health services. But while the Tories were in government with the Lib Dems between 2010 and 2015, mental health trusts lost the equivalent of £598m from their budgets each year. And though the Conservatives say they want to be “the party of the NHS”, their choices in government have seen the service brought to the brink of bankruptcy and vast swathes of the NHS sold off.
So if experience tells us anything, it’s unlikely that Lib Dem support for Tory proposals would bolster these vital services. And it’s also highly improbable that such support would end well for the Lib Dems, as the party’s very recent history proves.
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