So here we are, in the process of creating a stable and responsible Government for the United Kingdom. The negotiations at the Cabinet Office between William Hague, George Osborne and Oliver Letwin from the Conservatives and a much larger group from the Liberal Democrats has broken for the evening, with each side returning to their respective party leaders to establish what’s been achieved.
The fact is, I trust David Cameron to decide what is in the best interests of the country, and to ensure that those interests gel with the manifesto we put to the British people. We put a plan for government to the people and they endorsed it, but stopped short of handing us the effective carte blanche of a fullscale parliamentary majority. I wanted a majority, as did the party, but we didn’t get it. What we got was a complete and incontrovertible rejection of Gordon Brown and the Labour Party, a very half-hearted vote share for the Liberal Democrats and a cautious, somewhat pessimistic support for our austere but optimistic plans.
Austerity plans are never greeted with much enthusiasm. I intend to go on a diet, because I have to, not because I enjoy eating small quantities of soup. I didn’t vote for the diet, but then I didn’t vote to become a walking blimp either. And so it is with this election. People don’t really relish cuts, but they really hate the idea of the walking national coronary case Gordon Brown represented.
And so it will be with this new prospective government. We will agree to make concessions for some of the Liberal Democrats’ less barmy plans, and they will agree to agree to some of our easier to swallow plans. We will clash on things like Nuclear Weapons and we will very likely clash on aspects of tax credits and tax thresholds. But there is more uniting than dividing us; Zac Goldsmith’s capacity to bring a solid green focus on our tory policy will finally bear fruit to the delight of the Lib Dem green fringe, and Michael Gove’s exciting plans on schools can gel nicely with the radical plans within the Liberal Democrat agenda.
We have the prospect ahead of us of working in government not to appease our own backbenches but to prove an ethos of working in the interests of the people and of the country. That, as I said on these pages before, isn’t a difficult thing for Conservatives to want to do. So let’s do it.