DAVID CAMERON will have to offer Tory MPs the power to veto a future coalition deal in a secret ballot, the most senior Conservative backbencher has warned.
Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee, said it was “inevitable” that MPs must be allowed to give their verdict on a future coalition without the prime minister knowing whether they backed him.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, Brady, who resigned from Cameron’s front bench in 2007 over the issue of grammar schools, also called on the prime minister to do more to put aspiration at the heart of the Tory election campaign. Brady’s intervention is significant because he will play a key power-broking role if there is another hung parliament in May.
Cameron has previously said he would consult MPs — as Nick Clegg did with Liberal Democrats in 2010 — but has repeatedly refused to say that he would give them a secret ballot. Brady said: “Conservative colleagues would have to be consulted and have input. I think it’s a given that there would have to be a vote.”
Asked whether it should be a secret ballot, he said: “I think that is inevitable.”
If Cameron were to lose a vote on a coalition agreement, it could mortally damage his authority and spark a leadership challenge, which would be triggered if 46 MPs wrote to Brady demanding one. He refused to discuss how many letters he has received.
Brady had opposed the coalition deal in 2010, arguing for a minority government and a quick second election. “That’s an election we would have won outright,” he said.
“The coalition has done surprisingly well in many ways. But there has been a cost.
“There are central planks of Conservative philosophy that have always appealed to people: a belief in our country, in law and order, crucially a belief in meritocracy.
“In coalition . . . it has been difficult to project our own separate voice and philosophy successfully.”