A straw in the wind?
An ex-minister faces a legal challenge to his reelection, on grounds of a level of alleged dishonesty in his campaign that not only affected the election outcome, but should disqualify him outright from public office (shouldn’t most of them be thrown out on that basis)? His winning margin over his libdem rival was ultra-small.
If the challenge is successful, it raises an interesting question. There will be a by-election in which labour will find a new candidate, and the libdem candidate will presumably stand again, as will a bunch of fringe candidates. But what about the Tories? Will they field a candidate in this (presumably unwinnable) seat, or stand aside in favour of their coalition partner?
Fielding a candidate would push the coalition partners into what could become a divisive battle, as even a token candidate will come under intense media scrutiny and they’ll be looking for signs of division. It will also of course split the pro-government vote, thus gifting the election arithmetic to Labour. But if they don’t, it’ll set a precedent that some may find very uncomfortable, notably among those who are already less than enthusiastic about the coalition.
For what it’s worth, the proposed Alternative Voting system could alleviate the dilemma, by allowing a token Tory candidate to stand in the expectation of his/her partisan supporters giving their second-preference votes to their libdem coalition partner, and not wasting the vote.