The future of the Coalition

 

This is today’s blog  for www.johnredwood.com which technical  problems  stopped me posting. I apologise to readers for the delay. I can also now catch up with contributions – I have been unable to ac cess the moderator’s pages.

             I am glad the Conservatives and Lib Dems formed a stable government in May. This country needs a government that can tackle the deficit and straighten out our damaged economy and finances. I thought an agreement  by the Lib Dems to vote for  supply and confidence, and other policies which they liked  would have suited both parties better, but the Leaders decided they wanted to agree more. This decision has led to Lib Dem difficulties with student finance, defending a scheme their own Minister proposed.

             I have not been surprised by the comments of Lib Dems  caught out by creative journalists, apart from Mr Cable’s unprofessional and embarrassing remarks about a media bid. I am all in favour of more open discussion within government. It has always been a myth that Cabinet colleagues agree and think the same when a government is formed by a single party. It is likely to entail even more disagreement when two parties sit round the same governing table. Knowing a bit more about the arguments and disagreements can be  healthy, not disruptive.

             One of the things I do not like is the “new narrative” that Lib Dems have come into the government to bridle the instincts of Conservatives. This story line entails allowing Lib Dems to claim credit for all the nice things that Happen. As a Conservative I have campaigned long and hard for less income tax on the lower paid. I do not take kindly to being told we only have it thanks to Lib dems. As a Conservative I helped oppose the erosion of our civil liberties under Labour, and look forward to their restoration under this government. Again, there is no Lib Dem monopoly over civil liberties. The Conservative party wanted to spend more  per pupil on educating those from the poorest and least privileged backgrounds. The pupil premium was not just a Lib Dem wish.

               The main disagreements between the parties have always revolved around  Europe and the attitude towards enterprise and success. Many Conservatives will judge the Coalition by how well it changes the endless drift towards more EU government and bureaucracy. Conservatives also want to see success rewarded and enterprise praised. It is in these areas there will be real inter party disagreements – not over lower taxes for the lower incomes, or over the restoration of liberty.

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14 Comments

  1. JimF
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    The question is – is this a coalition between the New Left of the Tory party plus a few Libdems and the traditional Conservative Party or is it what it says on the tin?

    If truly consistent Libdem policies had been put in place we would now be on a path to bankruptcy via overspend and scrapping trident without a replacement, whilst negotiating Euro entry. But this was never going to happen with a few % of the popular vote.

    If truly consistent Conservative policies had been put in place we would be voting on recapture of our sovereignty, would have greater control of our borders, and be rewarding success more appropriately than by bashing the successful from Uni to retirement.

    The problem is that rather than going spectacularly broke under Labour/LibDems, or halting the rot under a true Conservative administration, we are still sliding down the slippery slope to Socialism under this Coalition. It is a moot point as to whether this will be better or worse for the Country in the long run than the other two options.

  2. Andrew Smith
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    This is a timely intervention.

    Politics is too often portrayed as a conflict between the free market, liberty and democracy on the one hand and nice-ness, centre-leftism and carte on the other.

    The trouble is Cameron has more in common with Clegg and Co than with his ostensible supporters.

  3. Freeborn John
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I hope you had a great Christmas Mr Redwood.

    The Coalition is seen as the personal vehicle of Cameron and Clegg designed to keep them exercising power that the electorate did not want to entrust them with. The worst decision was to lock in a 5-year parliament dispite the obvious failure of Cameron to ‘seal the deal’. Cameron should worry less about the LibDems claiming credit for the nice things that happen and more that he is to blame for breaking his cast-iron promises.

  4. The ESSEX BOYS
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    We’re in the process of compiling our New Year political wishes and hopes as we’re powerless to make actual Resolutions!

    We’ve suggested that our friendly rivals The ESSEX GIRLS do the same and wonder if you have any plans to invite your contributors to do the same John?

    Reply :Happy to do so. I will write about it nearer the day.

    • The ESSEX BOYS
      Posted December 27, 2010 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks John.

      May we be the ones to kick off in the comments section of today’s piece above on ‘Time to try controlling public spending’ ?

  5. lifelogic
    Posted December 26, 2010 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

    The failure of Cameron to win (due I am sure to his failure to make a small government case to the electorate) is a disaster. Indeed the liberal positions on the EU, green and energy policy, nuclear power, over regulation, industry and ever bigger government are all a disaster.

    And we get a referendum on what? “The alternative vote system” which no party mentioned or promised but non on the EU treaty which all three dishonestly did. If they could just put the treaty question on the bottom or the same ballot it
    would cost nothing and might still just save some semblance democracy. No chance even now they are doubtless positioning so as to avoid one on the next treaty.

  6. norman
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    This is what happens when we have senior politicians standing up at Party Conference and calling us the ‘nasty Party’ and blue sky thinkers ramming down our throats the need to ‘decontaminate the brand’.

    Even a child of three can see this is no way to go about things. We have given in to the left, accepted that their way is the correct way and now define all our policies in terms of how progressive, or left wing, they are. A travesty and reversal of the truth, it’s the left who destroys society and whose policies keep people trapped in poverty, not ours. To have conceded our corner in such a craven manner is criminal.

    Instead of condemning conservatism we should have been explaining why conservatism works, how it helps the poor and needy in society just as much, if not more, than the ‘undeserving rich’.

    Instead we have Lib Dems reinforcing the misconception that they are having to do everything they can to prevent the nasty Party from destroying the country. But you can’t blame them – they actually believe it is true.

    One suspects there are senior Conservative figures whose thinking isn’t so different and that a new New Labour is the way to go. Only this time we’ll make a better job of it.

    Another fine mess.

    • lifelogic
      Posted December 27, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Absolutely small government is good for all.

    • Boudicca
      Posted December 27, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Good comment, and one I agree with entirely.

      Cameron has surrendered to the left on the issues we face in the UK and to the EU on international issues. The first will prevent us from tackling the deficit and the horrendous levels of debt Labour bequeathed the nation; the second will prevent us from xontrolling our own affairs and growing our economy by becoming a ‘whole world’ trading nation again.

      Whatever he is (a spiv, but not quite so obvious as Blair in my opinion), he is no Conservative.

  7. Geoff not Hoon
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Mr. Redwood, Would it be wrong to refer to the coalition as a marriage of convenience? To me it is at any rate. Such marriages rarely if ever last and before a break up there is usually trouble. The problem is we are not talking two people we are talking groups of politicians elected by us to do a job. Ten years ago you attended a debate with Charles Kennedy on his view, and that of his party, that Britain should abandon the pound and join the euro right away. You handled the debate skillfully in my view but CK’s comments afterwards now look absurd. When a coalition’s members have such strong differing views on fundamentals as basic the euro how on earth is it ever going to deal with the big issues facing Britain today?

  8. Andy
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I would agree. I’m coming to the conclusion that the Coalition is a disaster. The LibDems are a left-wing tax and spend party just like Labour. It might have been better if the LibDems had propped up Labour. We would have had loads of problems and might this coming year have had a General Election and a Conservative Government. But we are where we are.

  9. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I don’t agree with you that the coalition has been a good idea. It just proves what many of us felt about Cameron, who is an old fashioned Liberal and has overseen many errors of judgment in his 7 months in office. Dr.Vince has been tranformed into looking a haunted, uncomfortable minister and this reflects the contorted nature of the coalition. As for stable government time will tell and the elections next May could be disastrous for the Libdems.

  10. Alte Fritz
    Posted December 27, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    When Vince Cable made an ass of himself, the BBC found the editor of a Liberal journal to praise him for keeping the true Liberal voice alive. Well, that a Liberal thinks it is alright to compromise your quasi judicial function will shock no one.

    The Coalition ought to make the point that from 1997 until 2010 (a long time) Labour cabinets were riven with dissent, the party permanently at war with itself. The Coalition shows signs of beng able to discuss disagreement properly; there is, from a distance at least, no sign of the culture of character assassination which was New Labour’s hallmark.

  11. grahams
    Posted December 28, 2010 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    To this political outsider, the coalition seems politically weak. The government is strong and stable because it is, of necessity, driven by the Civil Service. Officials had to draw up the framework of priorities for a coalition; officials had to deliver the cuts in projected spending, because new ministers could not do it in the time. And when coalition parties disagree, the one in line with official advice is almost certain to win the argument.
    Policy is centrist because the Civil Service, being apolitical, pursues a sort of moving average of received opinion, which includes experts like the Kings Fund or the Browne committee as well as the EU Commission or Nato agendas. The exception is when we get a minister like Mr Pickles who is himself a real expert in his subject.
    The upshot is that policies tend to be “sensible” but the wishes of voters are peripheral. For someone who has not lived with a coalition before, this has been an eye-opener. It explains, for instance, why it does not matter if Belgium has a “government” for months on end. And what we shall probably have in perpetuity if the AV referendum is won. Fine if you do not care about political issues, depressing if you do.

  • 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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