Voters should elect the Liberal Democrats in seats where the Conservatives stand little chance of defeating Labour, a senior Tory says.
Education Secretary Michael Gove’s comments came as he defended the Government’s decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance.
He said that despite cuts to their grants, a number of Tory and Liberal Democrat councils were funding student travel costs, which was the “statutory duty” of local authorities.
Mr Gove told MPs: “Essex razed travel costs for children in receipt of a range of benefits and in Hull, Liberal Democrat-controlled Hull, any student in receipt of Education Maintenance Allowance also gets a travel grant to cope with the full cost.
“They wouldn’t if Labour took power I suspect, but if they were wise enough to vote Liberal Democrat at the next local elections in Hull, or for the Conservatives in any seat where we are well placed to defeat Labour, then they will have a council which is fulfilling its statutory duty.
“It is no surprise that there are Liberal Democrat and Conservative councils which are ensuring that all students receive the support they deserve. It’s striking that this is in addition to Education Maintenance Allowance.”
Mr Gove’s comments will risk fuelling Tory backbench fears of an electoral pact between the parties.
In last week’s Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election, the Tories were accused of “soft-pedalling” in their campaign to give the Lib Dems a greater chance of taking the seat.