A front page scoop in the FT of 28 April reported that, in the event of a hung parliament, David Cameron would seek pacts with Unionists in Northern Ireland, Plaid Cymru and the Scottish Nationalist Party in order to avoid having to accommodate Lib Dem demands for electoral reform comes as no surprise. To secure a majority, the Tories have always played the Orange card and this would be merely an extension of that tactic.
The price of such deals will cost the UK exchequer dearly. His would- be partners have all avowedly stated they are seeking to maximise what they can squeeze out of the Treasury for each of their respective nations. The Unionists are particularly adept at getting ever more cash from the British taxpayer. Only recently, the DUP extracted a further £2m+ as its price for agreeing to the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont. Has Mr Cameron factored in the costs of his dalliances with these parties? The consequential increase to government spending exacerbates the enormous public deficit, about which the Institute of Fiscal Studies highlighted its concerns on 27th April.
It is ironic, too, that Mr Cameron will be cosying up to parties all of which have been elected on systems of proportional representation! Moreover, the only reason the Tories have any members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly is because of proportional representation. First- past- the Post voting would have wiped out the Tories in both the Edinburgh and Cardiff legislatures.
Trevor Smith is House of Lords Lib Dem Spokesperson on Northern Ireland.