The mood towards the government

I went out on the doorsteps yesterday, resuming my Saturday morning roving doorstep surgeries.

I was pleasantly surprised by the mood. Most who said they were Conservatives were pleased the Labour government had gone. They ranged from disappointed that we had to be in alliance with Lib Dems to quite positive about it, but all accepted it had to happen. Very few people ever confess to being Lib Dems when I call, but those that did were more positive about the Coalition than the average Conservative. Non alligned voters and non voters – people who did not volunteer their inclinations – seemed relaxed or disinterested .

Today’s polls confirm this, although they say that Lib Dems are less in favour of the arrangement than Conservatives. The government overall has around two thirds support, more than the voting support for the two founder parties. Labour has picked up support at the expense of the Lib Dems. That may be the result of the Coaliton. I suspect it is more likely to be the result of the departure of Mr Brown. Pro European Lib Dems would welcome the more Euro friendly and voter friendly Mr Miliband, the current front runner for Leader.

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25 Comments

  1. Quietzapple
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    It is quite usual for a new government to be welcomed and for people who didn't even bother to vote to claim to have voted for it.

    That John Redwood is welcomed in his own constituency doesn't surprise many I'm sure.

    Labour has been recruiting many new members, many of them Lib-Dems who don't support the National Liberals.

    The misnamed '45% is a majority when we say it is' rule for dissolutions caused great hilarity when Douglas Hurd propounded it on the radio in a shop where the elderly conservative owners are not great respecters of dissemblance.

    Well John, how many leading questions in your interviews vis a vis "debt, deficit and iniquitous taxes" does it take to get positive answers to inquiries about 'the 45% stabiliser'?

    Reply: I can't see what all the fuss is about. Parliament could, I assume, repeal the 55% rule by a simple majority if it wished.

    • Mark
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      "I see no ships"

      We have a move to 5 year fixed terms for Parliaments and this 55% rule, neither of which were trailed by Conservatives at the election, and both of which are problematic. I'm not sure that Parliament could repeal the 55% rule on a simple majority, because its purpose would require a 55% majority. Frankly, if the coalition works, it works. There are much better ways of binding it together than altering the constitution to suit the peculiar arithmetic of this particular Parliament as it stands at present. Just 8 Lib Dem defections would alter even that arithmetic, as the government would no longer have a 55% vote.

      • Quietzapple
        Posted May 16, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        One must admire the PR wise adaptation of the reality that so far as a dissolution is concerned 45% is to be decreed a majority against – 55% rule sounds so much fairer until it is actually thought about, as few will.

        Of course not only the loss of a few Lib-Dems may kybosh Cameron's machiavellian machinations, but a Tory split on the EU. Daniel Hannan is already canvassing for an "in or Out" referendum . .

        Oh, and the pretence that the National Liberals' electoral position is protected by the 45% rule is poppycock. They are bound to the Tories, by blood most likely. Only way back is a split, and then . . . guess what? The Tories can block a dissolution and delay their own electoral oblivion.

        Thus, if the 45% rule is passed, with 5 year parliaments, the party which failed to win an election at the fag end of a World Wide Recession in a country by nature conservative (in my view) will have usurped this right, to which they took such strong exception when Gordon Brown exercised it as a standard constitutional right.

        It would take a political science fiction author of some ingenuity to second guess Mr Cameron's next tendentious move . . .

  2. david
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    I expected better from you. HMS Coalition will go down with all hands when it hits, Reality Rock, make sure you aren't on board.

  3. Javelin
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Responsibility is well understood by functional adults. George Osborne needs to draw a clear line in the sand by giving us this statement a d then filling in the blanks.

    "The last Government spent % more than it received in taxes and has also run up a total debt of % of what it receives in taxes. Therefore to pay this debt back we will need to reduce spending by % and increase taxes by %."

    He could then give the figures in absolute terms.

    He might also like to add that whilst the banks have lent them the money the UK will not default on their debts. The British people must know that if they do strike and riot like Greece our debts will not go away but our credit rating will fall and our interest payments will go up.

  4. THE ESSEX GIRLS
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    It's frustrating, although not entirely unexpected, that the media in general and the BBC in particular are concentrating their energy on finding differences between the 2 coalition partners and predictions on how soon it will all end in tears.
    Naturally they pretend they have the interests of the country at heart and their 'responsible broadcasting' wing debates political matters with gravitas and authority.

    Piffle! Let them for once take a positive stance for the sake of the nation and allow the coalition to evolve. We have been critical of the way DC ran the campaign itself and will contribute to any ensuing debate, but his instincts and powers of leadership were excellent and inspiring in forming this alliance with grace and showing that his party is capable of so-called New Politics.
    Despite misgivings senior Lib-Dems have also acted bravely.
    After all what IS the point of sitting in Parliament for the next decade or 2 if they don't want to help enact policy and contribute to progress rather than ustilise their time and talents in negative criticism? To pick up their expenses and be time-servers?

    And well done to rightish Conservatives such as JR and Michael Fallon for embracing the initiative and pledging to play important parts irrespective of any personal disappointment so far.
    On the contrary we trust this site will continue to allow us all to contribute strongly and positively!

    • Amanda
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      Well this 'Yorkshire Lass' agrees with you. This country needs hope and the best hope we can have is when we are told the truth, treated like adults, and asked to help put the country back together. I hope Cameron gets on with his local democracy agenda soon. The best coaltion he can have is the coalition of the English people, and whichever Welsh and Scottish people want to help as well.

      In the meantime, I hope the conservative Conservatives work out how they too can increase their influence – and I wll certainly be pleased when I can see their views coming through, as well as those of the Liberals. The good thing about the Liberal party is that is does not have an 'ideology', it is a party of 'chancers'; it can reinvent itself now as Liberal Conservatives.

      Finally, I intent to write to Jeremy Hunt to stress my view that the BBC needs to be dealt with. The BBC as an entitiy is there to educate, and vast tracts of the population need information not propoganda in order for the coalition to be able to survive and grow. There has to be a clean out, and they have to stick to their charter – then I'll be happy to pay for a licence fee.

  5. Norman
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    It's very much the honeymoon period. For most of us getting rid of Mr Brown and his cronies was absolutely paramount – every month he was at the helm was doing more damage and he didn't seem to have a clue what to do but carry on as he has done the last 13 years with more and more spending.

    I'm waiting for the new budget (I believe one was promised within 50 days so sometime in July I'd hope) to see what direction the coalition have decided to take us in. My biggest area of concern is stimulating private sector businesses – helping individuals is one thing but the top priority must be helping the businesses who give employment to those individuals.

  6. Sue
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    It's a pity they don't realise we are about to concede more power to the EU without "that" referendum Cameron promised in his manifesto and also in the subsequent coalition manifesto "We agree that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament".

    The deception and lies have started early on in their tenure and now Cameron has the perfect excuse not to behave like a Conservative.

    Same old politics, same old spin, same old socialist regime.

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The best anyone who voted LibDem should have expected was to be part of a coalition government. By definition this means compromise of manifesto commitments. They should therefore be happy that even with fewer seats they have the opportunity to be part of the government. Those who voted Conservative have to accept that the party fell short of the required seats to form a majority. Minority government may have been feasible but would have been intrinsically unstable and very short term. Given the economic crisis we face, the formation of this coalition was the only way to offer the possibility of stability to tackle these problems. No one can have all their pre-election wishes fully satisfied but the coalition partners have a great responsibility and we should hope they succeed. The pity is that the media is working away already to undermine the new government.

    • Citizen Responsible
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I think your first two sentences sum up the LibDem position exactly. PR, which is sacrosanct to LibDems, produces coalition governments and consequently horse trading over policy. If the LibDems don’t show they can compromise and make a coalition work, how can they argue PR would be better for the country?

  8. Mark
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    It is plain to me that Cameron considered a coalition with the Lib Dems as the desirable outcome of this election from before his article in the Observer last September (when Conservatives had 43% poll rating – enough for a very solid majority) where he said there was "not a cigarette paper of difference" between Conservatives and Lib Dems on many issues. I think he engineered the outcome – even throwing the first TV debate – to make sure he didn't win a majority, and thus force the coalition option on the table.

    I don't ultimately disagree that a coalition is desirable when tough cuts have to be implemented. The issue of judgement is whether it was appropriate to go for that outcome at this juncture, or instead to have aimed for a clear majority, exposed the truth of the country's situation,and then appealed for coalition/national "anyone-but-Labour" government with far greater control over the agenda, and with more knowledge of what needs to be done. Instead we now seemed to be saddled with some policies that are going to create problems rather than solve them: in particular, on energy, and what appear to be ill thought out CGT proposals.

    • Little Black Censore
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      The cigarette paper of difference might have been an undertaking to relax the ban on smoking. There would have been votes in that.

  9. Publius
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood,

    Disinterested? Or did you mean uninterested? There is a significant difference.

    A disinterested observer is not necessarily an uninterested observer, nor is an uninterested observer necessarily a disinterested one.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    Good to hear you regularly keep in contact with us voters opinions by knocking on doors, as well as your web site here.

    I was aware that you used to call into see local businesses in the Town on a regular basis, and to ask questions, and see how things were progressing. Perhaps if Ed Balls had done the same during the last 5 years, he would be aware as to why Labour lost, and not now have to find out, before he considers his leadership campaign.

    Listened to DC on the Andrew Marr show this morning, and am absolutely delighted that an Independent Audit is being completed to expose/find out the true state of the finances of UK PLC. The whole sorry mess needs to be published, so we can all see as well.

    From some of the Stories in the press this morning it seems like a giant black hole, or series of holes have been found, with more than the expected commitment to a number of expensive projects and ideals.

    Many of us on this site have suggested a scorched earth policy was being undertaken, and it looks like we could be right. It is always worse that it at first appears when you investigate the books of a failed or failing Company.

    With regard to the meeting of minds and working with the Liberals, I hope it works, I hope it can be a success, I hope it leads to more grown up discussion, but the reported antics of Mr Kennedy, Vince Cable and others, in voicing still their wish that it had been Labour, does not really help matters.

    Given that the Liberals are meeting behind closed doors today (press not unsurprisingly uninvited) to discuss the partnership in more detail, it is perhaps an opportunity for Mr Clegg to remind some of them that the Liberals came third, did not increase their vote substantially, and would never have formed any sort of Government on their own for decades, if ever.

    If they had decided to go with Labour, then they would have supported a failed Party who had lost 100 seats, who had no leader, and would have had another shoehorned Prime Minister in place.

    The Problem the Liberals have, is that they had some rather wishful Policies which sounded good (to some), but which they never thought they would have to enact. Now they have some power (power sharing) they must realise that with that comes responsibility and accountability.

    DC is absolutely right when he wants them to share in the bad news of cuts and tax rises, with the good news on some policies.

    For the first time Liberals are having to think rather deeper than before, this should not really be a problem, given the reward they have got.

    Let us hope commonsense prevails.

  11. English Pensioner
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I find many LibDem's attitude rather strange. Like the Tories, they are no doubt disappointed that they didn't win an overall majority, but I believe they have got a good deal, after all Cameron could have opted to try for a minority government.
    What they won't face is the fact that most countries which have the sort of electoral system that they want have permanent coalition governments because no party ever gets an overall majority. If they don't like what they have now, they'd certainly like the results of their proposed electoral system even less.

  12. Liz
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Those who dislike the Coalition Government should say what they want in its place given the election results. Another election? – very unpopular with the public and might produce the same result and not necessarily a Conservative majority? Or an anti English alliance of LibDems/Labour and the nationalists of Scotland, Wales and NI? The electorail Labour biais should have been corrected before the election but it was it and so we have to deal woth the contorted result. I agree that the BBC is seeking to undermine the coalition and started the day after it was announced.

  13. Matt
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Bit of a paradox when you hear core Lib Dem activists, expounding the values of PR in one breath, then angrily claiming, in the next, that their leadership has jettisoned some of their sacred policies.

    Bit of Homer Simpson logic here, maybe someone should point out to them that if they want pure policies then the “First past the post system” is right up their street. They just need to distribute themselves a bit better.

    Not too surprised that the coalition is going down well as they’re just off the starting blocks.

    I’m disappointed at the level of Tory compromise and would have preferred to see a Conservative minority government. The compromise seems to go beyond what would have been needed or reasonable for Mr Cameron to pull the LD’s on board and it does make you wonder if this has been used by him to consign to the skip some Conservative pledges that he wanted to be rid of, because he didn’t really support them, but we are where we are and I do wish the new government well.

    The test will come some way down the road; in the honeymoon period it’s easy to be friends, all on one side of the table. When things start to go wrong , that’s when you find that had fewer friends than you thought… and I have a horrible feeling that St Vincent will feature somewhere along this line.

  14. backofanenvelope
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    An independent audit sounds a good idea; especially if the Tories get into the habit of labelling public sector cuts and increased taxes as being "Brown's Legacy".

    Perhaps we could also have an independent audit of the benefits and costs of EU membership?

    • Citizen Responsible
      Posted May 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      The damage done to our economy and the pain to correct it, should be flagged up as “Brown’s Legacy” ad infinitum.

  15. Derek Buxton
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    "Let's hope commonsense prevails", I do hope that was made as a joke. Already we have The mad Huhne promising nirvana, well actually a return to the stone age at huge cost, but not to him and his new mates. What is now plain to all, is that Cameron is not, and never has been a "conservative", he is a socialist sailing under a false flag. His flagrant breach of the promise "not to accept any more EU rule" has just been shot within days.

    Will the next proper conservative please step forward,speedily, otherwise we are in the EU's hands for keeps and it will not be pleasant.

  16. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    This suggests two things. The first is that the coalition should last a few years if European issues do not cause it to collapse. The second is that both the Conservatives and the LibDems would do well to recover their own identity before the next general election; this would involve (a) knowing when the next election will be and (b) changing from a full blown coalition to a 'confidence and supply' arrangement at least 6 months before polling day. What is not needed is a permanent change to the UK constitutional arrangements regarding the dissolution of parliament.

    It may seem odd to start discussing Conservative Party policy at the next general election but there is definitely a ned for "the Right" to start standing up for itself. The danger is that the Conservative leadership will go for bland consensual policy as a result of being in coalition. There is NOTHING in the coalition agreement that prevents internal debate within the Conservative Party. It will be good manners to wait until the emergency budget is out of the way but after that let debate begin.

  17. S Whitfield
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    My mood is one of anger and resentment that Dave Cameron has stitched up a deal with the Liberal democrats to stick two fingers up to anyone with Conservative values.
    I'm also angry that so many of your fellow MP's, who should know better, were taken in by this unprincipled chancer.

    Mr Redwood, How can you and other decent Conservative MP's remain in your seat when your leader has shown that he despises your views ?

  18. Norman Dee
    Posted May 16, 2010 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    DC can use the developing situation over the re ratification of the Lisbon Treaty as an opportunity to give the referendum he promised, but he has to do it in a way that will not break the coalition immediately. So, they, the LD's, have asked for a referendum on the simple in or out question, give them that, but include it with the other questions which are more pertinent to the Conservative party's requirement ie we stay in but in a Free Trade area EFTA not a federation.
    It may however be purely academic, because if the Euro collapses, as it looks like it might when the Spanish / Portuguese/ and Italians get their begging bowls out, European Union is going to have to change.

  19. Rich
    Posted May 17, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    I am prepared to give the Coalition a chance as I think the Lib Dems did have some decent proposals such as raising the tax threshold for lower earners (although, like with Brown's tax credits they are an inefficient way of giving you your own money back, as middle and high earners benefit equally) and pushing for a full review of military spending (including Trident).

    As for Milliband as Labour leader: whilst he is obviously more telegenic than his potenital predecessor, he will suffer from being so closely connected to New Labour, and also by being a bit of a "nerd". He seems likeable enough, but all I heard from him today was a torrent of soundbites ("engage/Next Labour/progressive/aspirational") which isn't enough to turn their fortunes around. Cameron has stolen the middle ground from him, much like Blair did with previous Conservative leaders, and it will take a bit more than a few cliches to win it back.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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