David Cameron has been urged by senior Tory backbenchers to end the coalition with the Liberal Democrats early before the next general election, with one MP suggesting he should set out to annoy Nick Clegg into pulling out of government.
Tory MP John Redwood said Cameron should deliberately antagonise his Liberal Democrat partners into leaving, and warned the prime minister that terminating the coalition early may not be '"wise" as he had "given his word" and "it'll not look good if the leader of the main party was to end the coalition".
Redwood suggested that Cameron could do this by pushing for "distinctively Conservative" policies like restricting benefits for migrants even further, having the government drive through a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union and refusing to opt back into EU crime measures in order to "trigger the Liberal Democrats to become impatient" with the coalition arrangement.
"What should happen now is the Conservative majority in the government should start to press very strongly for two or three distinctively conservative policies, and if the Liberals really don't like it, they could push to leave on the grounds that they wish to impede [the plans] from the benches of opposition," he said.
Lib Dems reacted with bemusement to Redwood's suggestion, with former European parliamentary candidate Giles Goodall quipping: "Nothing like responsible government in the national interest, eh!"
Nothing like responsible govt in nat. interest eh MT @asabenn: Redwood says Tories should push policies to anger LibDems to leave coalition— Giles Goodall (@GoodallGiles) June 23, 2014
Tory MP Graham Brady, who represents the party's backbenchers as chair of the 1922 committee, called for the two parties to carry out a "conscious uncoupling" in time for the 2015 general election, so that they can have enough time to lay out their re-election platforms.
"Both parties will need some space, some independence, so they can present their separate visions to the British people well before the next election," he told a gathering of Conservative activists on Monday night.
“You need several months, you need a period of repetition. You need a significant opportunity to get any message across if it is going to sink in with the public."
This break between the two parties needs to be carried out in a "deliberate, pre-meditated way", Brady said, warning that attempts to keep the coalition together until election day would lead to an 'increasingly fractious period" that would hurt both parties.
Brady warned that the coalition had helped boost Ukip's support as it "plays into that image of politicians who are more alike, politicians who you can’t differentiate”.
Redwood told the audience: "It's vital to the interests of both parties that over the months that remain in government that their respective ministers and spokespeople should be free-er to articulate their message and not be governed by the normal niceties."
The senior backbenchers' message, speaking at a meeting organised by the Bow Group to discuss how the coalition should end, comes as David Cameron makes a last-ditch bid this week to stop former Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker from becoming the next president of the European Commission.
Meanwhile, Polish ministers accused Cameron of having "fucked up" his approach to the European Union and for listening to the "stupid propaganda" of eurosceptics,
In response to a question from The Huffington Post UK pointing out that Cameron once urged the Tories to stop "banging on about Europe" soon after he became leader in 2006, Redwood and Brady expressed little concern.
Brady told HuffPost UK that "times have changed pretty considerably from those heady days", adding that "clearly these issues have risen up the electorate's list of priorities".
Redwood responded that Cameron "hasn't commented in that way today and if he were to comment today, he'd understand exactly what I have been saying", arguing that the Tories' "target audience" was the voters who "wanted something done about our borders and something done about Europe".