The Financial Times (registration required) is reporting that a deal with the Liberal Democrats is the Conservative Party's second preference. They would rather pusue a deal with the DUP, SNP and Plaid Cmyru. On the central issue of public spending:
"...any support would be to protect their parts of the UK from the worse effects of any spending cuts - a tough demand on a government looking to reduce the £163bn deficit. But Mr Cameron's team believe it may be preferable to doing a deal with Nick Clegg's Lib Dems, who say that electoral reform would be the price of any post-election pact."
This implicitly undermines the Ulster Unionist and Conservative relationship even further. It also leaves a key local negative message against the DUP. It is hard to scaremonger about a hung parliament never mind the SNP if CCHQ seems to prefer such an outcome. The article also highlights that:
"The Tories also work closely with the SNP in the Scottish Parliament".
It predicts that:
"...the Democratic Unionists, the largest party in Northern Ireland with nine MPs, could use its muscle during debate over the Budget to extract concessions."