DH: Do you expect all Liberals to do that though? Given that offer, some of them will say no thank you.
NB: I agree but I think this would flush out those who are not really onside and they will probably be rebelling against us, but it might keep a few waverers inside the tent.
DH: I think that's exactly right. I can understand why Tories don't want to talk about a Lib Dem split: they don't want to look as though they're crowing. But Lib Dem tensions are the real story. The media are obsessed with splits coming from the "Tory Right", whom they like to build up as a pack of almost pantomime grotesques. In fact, the Lib Dems are far more likely to sunder.
NB: There are genuine problems for Liberal Democrat MPs. Frankly, their weekends are a lot more miserable than most Tory MPs' weekends at the moment. They are getting it seriously in the neck on a number of issues — tuition fees, some of the benefits changes. I just feel we will need to offer them something which says that we are going to reward you for your loyalty, and we'll consider you to be partners and allies. And what do you do for partners and allies? You help them when they face a difficult challenge.
DJ: We have a coalition led by social liberals, people from both parties who largely share common assumptions about the way society should function, issues about crime and punishment, sexuality and so on. However, a large part of the base on the Conservative side is socially quite conservative. Is that going to create an unsustainable tension over the long run?
NB: I don't think it is. In a strange way, as a sort of microcosm, the marriage of me and my constituency is rather a good object lesson. Grantham and Stamford would not be in anybody's list of trendy liberal metropolitan constituencies. Lincolnshire is not a very right-wing place but it is deeply, deeply small "c" conservative. They picked me knowing that I was gay, in fact it was the last thing I said in my open primary. In the very last minute of the 30 minutes I ended up telling them because I didn't know if they all knew, and they still picked me. Ours is a relationship which is two-way: I've certainly changed some of my views on certain things. I've found with them that where the social conservatism comes in is over something I spend a bit of time on in my book — immigration. They say that this is a challenge to the cultural integrity and the union of our country. They are worried about the way immigration is undermining a sense of self-conscious Britishness. That is really important to people. Now, I've learned from them and shifted my views on that particular debate. But actually on the touchstone issues of sexuality and race and all of that they're all completely onside with the changes that have been made, not just in the Conservative Party but in British society. I don't see an obvious piece of legislation or an obvious proposal which will provide a fault line. Europe is perhaps more likely to, but on social conservatism versus socialism I don't see a problem.
DJ: How about you, Dan?
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