THE Conservative-Liberal Democrat governing coalition is going through a “honeymoon period” at present but it could come under some pressure later, a Tory elder statesman has warned.
Former cabinet minister Lord Heseltine told Conservative workers and supporters in Solihull that divisions could emerge on issues such as Europe and social policy, threatening the relationship between the two parties.
The result of parliamentary by-elections, local council elections and opinion polls could also play a part in creating difficulties.
However, he said his guess was the coalition would last - for the duration of one parliament at least.
Lord Heseltine was speaking at the annual dinner held by the Hampton- in-Arden and Bickenhill branch of Meriden Conservative Association to honour the memory of Sir Winston Churchill, “The Greatest Briton”.
As an MP, Michael Heseltine held senior government posts, including Defence Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister. But he is probably best remembered for seizing the Commons mace and swinging it around his head, earning him the nickname “Tarzan”.
The peer - now aged 77 - told his audience in Hampton last Friday that Labour had left the country with an economic mess, and the coalition government led by David Cameron and Nick Clegg faced a tough job ahead to reduce the deficit.
Lord Heseltine did not criticise any of the policies designed to achieve that aim, but he questioned the accuracy of forecasts for economic growth - as much as 2.6 per cent in 2012 - given the current unemployment rate of 2.5 million and public sector job cuts.
He concluded by saying he was sure Mr Cameron would win the next election. “I think we are through the worst,” he said, “and the Conservatives will be in power for the next decade - with or without the Lib Dems.”
Earlier, Lord Heseltine had visited the new nine-acre arboretum off Shadowbrook Lane in Hampton-in-Arden, created by a charity, the Fentham Trust.
He is a keen gardener and aboriculturist, and has planted hundreds of trees on his Oxfordshire estate.