Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Coalition – One Year On


A year ago today, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats embarked upon the first coalition government in the UK since 1945; the almost-inevitable outcome of an indecisive general election; a partnership forged ‘in the national interest’. Not since Adolf Hitler had the country faced a peril so profound: the intolerable deficit and unsustainable level of debt bequeathed (again) by Labour demanded remedial and exceptional political intervention. David Cameron audaciously stepped up to the mark, and Nick Clegg was man enough to join him. The resulting coalition ‘manifesto’ made over 400 pledges as it set out their governing priorities. The leaders of both parties promised a new era: one in which a politician’s word would mean what it said; and promises would be fulfilled.

Wading through the vagaries, sophistry and waffle, His Grace identified three policies which would justify the coalition’s existence and establish whether or not David Cameron went down in history as ‘a great reforming prime minister’. And it really has nothing to do with the extent to which they have ‘supported marriage’ or resisted further EU integration.

Good grief. The Conservative Party DID NOT WIN the 2010 General Election. To criticise them for compromising in some policy areas in order to make progress in others is churlish and small-minded. The three principal policies by which the success (or otherwise) of the coalition might be measured are (according to His Grace) quite simply and straightforwardly i) the economy; ii) education reform; and iii) welfare reform. Anything else is a bonus.

Yes, of course the inexorable progress to an EU superstate is intolerable; and yes, of course support for marriage and the family are paramount; and yes, it goes without saying that the liberties which Labour surrendered are sorely missed and the vacuum is a harbinger of illiberal horrors to come; and without doubt, the Equality Act 2010 is among the most odious pieces of legislation ever enacted. But when you are temporarily conjugally ‘made one’ with a europhile, equality-obsessed bunch of liberals who don’t know their Mill from their Monnet (not the artist – one ‘n’ – but the statesman and financier), or their Schuman (not the composer – two ‘n’s – but the almost-beatified politician), what do you do?

We must count our blessings (diligently) and thank God (quite literally) that Nick Clegg did not seek to prop up a zombified Gordon Brown in a precarious minority government (or ‘rainbow coalition’, with brooding storm clouds) for a further period of deficit-denying recession: another installment of Balls and Brown complemented by Clegg and Co might have persuaded His Grace to return to ashes and dust. At least now we are en route to fiscal credibility. At least no we are on the cusp of irreversible revolutions in both state education and welfare reform.

What Conservative could possibly be discontented with these coalition objectives and achievements?

Of course, there will be no birthday cake today, just as there was no champagne when AV was defeated last Thursday. Mr Cameron is not insensibly demonstrative: many people are suffering hardship, and many more about to hurt even more. He is hyper-sensitive to Tory insensitivity. But he is getting things done – albeit with some stalling and a few U-turns – and who can deny that he both looks and sounds better on the world stage than Gordon Brown ever did? Really, honestly, wouldn’t you rather have him visiting Ireland next week with the Queen, and greeting President Obama the week after on his state visit here? David Cameron’s charismatic statesmanship led the USA on the war in Libya: the tail was wagging the dog. He exudes confidence and optimism, and shows no signs of slowing down. In the present economic morass with its perils of high unemployment, low growth and the constant threat of stagflation, isn’t Mr Cameron the least worst option to have as Prime Minister at this moment? And if he is the least worst, doesn’t that make him the best?

Whatever you think of the Conservatives, the LibDems or the Coalition, it looks as though we’re stuck with it for another four year. Judging by the LibDem demolition that took place last week, 2015 might just see a return to two-party politics. In reality, people like Vince Cable have no ‘nuclear option’, and fractious Tory big beasts are neutered by the effects of being in coalition: any resignation can and will be absorbed: the relationship that matters is that between Nick Clegg and David Cameron.

And they have rather more in common than they would care to admit. They may not be best buddies at this precise moment, but what marriage does not have its downs and downs in its early years? This is not ‘till death do us part’, but it is certainly ‘for better, for worse, for richer, (and) for poorer’. There will be no snap election (or, at least the LibDems will not precipitate one, for even they have the political antennae to sense electoral annihilation). They are bound upon a wheel a fire for the long haul. And as long as Edward Miliband leads Labour, there really is nothing to fear but ‘events’ (...dear boy).

The next year will be an awful lot more about individuality and identity, lest the blue and orange be irrevocably merged into a rather unattractive shade of green. Mr Clegg must be seen to emerge from the shadows of petulance, and (in the wake of the AV defeat) be seen to win a significant and lasting reform. It would have made sense to have permitted the LibDems to take credit for the ‘Freedom Bill’ or take a higher profile in ‘Social Justice’ reforms, but the fear now is that the Prime Minister will leave them to hack away at the House of Lords. That would be a pity, for constitutional reform should never be executed for reasons of short-term political expediency.

On this first anniversary we should be grateful for small mercies: Labour are no longer in government. And we should also appreciate the large mercies: we are on a journey of radical public sector reform in education and welfare, and intent on ‘localising’ that which can more effectively be done nearer the people. The ‘progressive majority’ is not left of centre: it is centre-right. This government, as Disraeli once said, exists ‘to preserve all that is good in our constitution, and radical to remove all that is bad’. It is both Tory-conserving and Whig-reforming, and so the big themes are in the true Conservative mould.

30 Comments:

Blogger tangentreality said...

I agree with everything you've said, Your Grace, with the exception of reform to the House of Lords.

Reform to the Upper House is long overdue - we actually had a commitment to it placed on the statute book 100 years ago, but no Government has actually finished the job.

The referendum on AV has been soundly defeated - regardless of opinion on the subject, the people have spoken and the matter is now closed. The democratisation of the House of Lords is a far more significant constitutional change, one that is right and necessary. My only hope is that all parties approach the subject with the maturity, intelligence and consideration it deserves.

11 May 2011 at 09:41  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

On the other hand…

● Britain is responsible for many of the world’s historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan, David Cameron has said.
● David Cameron has watered down his commitment to cutting net immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’ after coming under pressure from his Liberal Democrat coalition colleagues.
● Reducing immigration to 1980s levels is an ‘ambition’ rather than Government policy, David Cameron said today.
● The Government has been accused of ‘gross vandalism’ after industrial cutters have been moved onto an airfield to begin chopping up nearly £4 billion worth of the world’s most advanced reconnaissance aircraft.
● Britons face being spied on and pursued by foreign police officers even for the most minor offences in an European agreement the Home Office will sign up to tomorrow.
● ‘I do not believe in an in-out referendum for many reasons. I think we are better off in the European Union.’

11 May 2011 at 10:35  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Cranmer, your essay leaves me with mixed feelings. Although an anniversary is a time for celebration I can't give three cheers I'm afraid. It's a heavy-hearted one & half cheers from me.

Of course we should be grateful for small mercies. And the situation we have is without doubt infinitely preferable to any situation which left NuLiebour, and Brown in particular [even the mention of his name makes me shudder], with any power. But it's only a small mercy in the same way that a kick in the nuts is preferable to having them cut off altogether!

●The country is going to the dogs. That Cameron is slowing the rate of decay is not much of a consolation. We don't need mild reforms, we need wholesale repentance. A complete U-turn not just the brakes applying a little bit

●Your continued insistence that Dave's "Statesmanship" in leading us & (reluctantly) the USA into another pointless, unwinnable, Arab conflict doesn't sound any less preposterous every time you repeat it. Saying a silly thing 1000 times doesn't stop it being a silly thing.

●We continue to be drawn deeper into Europe. We have foolishly rejected the mild reforms that AV would have brought, but the price might well be the more devastating 'reforms' to the House of Lords that you warn of.

●We are rightly making surface wounds into Public Sector spending. But what we're saving with one hand we're giving away with the other: increasing EU budgets, and vast "aid" handouts to failed states and "bailouts" to failed economies.

●Ed Miliband is a wet lettuce. But if he promises people enough free stuff (like the SNP), then the electorate will gladly vote him in regardless. And the party-political merry-go-round will continue apace.

Your tribal loyalty to the Tories is no more admirable than the ignorant electorate who I encounter who vote Liebour because their father did. Like Hannans, your talents are utterly wasted whilst you continue to be shackled to such a tribal mindset. No doubt the Conservatives are glad to have you both "inside the tent pissing out". Better still would be to have you on the outside the tent wandering freely, relieving yourself wherever the wind doth blow!

11 May 2011 at 10:40  
Anonymous i albion said...

Yes Mr.Rottenborourgh his Grace has been to kind to Cameron.

11 May 2011 at 10:43  
Anonymous LDS said...

It is easy to lose sight of what is important amidst the noise of day to day politics. That is why I value Your Graces still small voice of religio-political calm. It is interesting that you choose the same three key objectives that I would. I think because they are aspects of care for the whole of the Nation across time and between generations, conservative thinking at its best. Not everything is possible at once but if we could say at the end of five years that we had addressed the deficit, improved our education and reformed our welfare system then we will have immeasurably improved our Nation and the lot of our fellow citizens. Who knows they may even vote for us again. It would really be self indulgent, whatever the provocations of Huhnes and Cables, to abandon future generations to penury, ignorance and idle dependency for that is most assuredly what the return of the Labour party (as it currently is) will mean.

11 May 2011 at 10:48  
Blogger Rebel Saint said...

Cranmer said ... " The three principal policies by which the success (or otherwise) of the coalition might be measured are i) the economy; ii) education reform; and iii) welfare reform"

But aren't they just the same old 3 that every government talks about reforming (and "law & order" to)?

The greatest impact on our economy & welfare would be by tackling some of the "broken society" issues that Dave talked so enthusiastically before getting into power.

The moral & civic decay we experience is going to be our downfall. The economic, educational & welfare impact of our imploding Judae-Christian civic virtues - and in particular the disintegration of family life will cripple us and render all other reforms as sticking plasters on a gaping wound.

Sadly, only the Church of Rome seems to care about these things.

What we really need for than anything else is another Wesley or Whitfield.

11 May 2011 at 12:26  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...


● Britain is responsible for many of the world’s historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan


Now just hold on there one cotton-pickin minute Johnny R.

I just despise this particularly eronious and currently fashionable if sloppy view, that within the history of the British Empire, lies the seedbed for all of the ills that beset the Asian sub-continent. Why start the historical narative with the coming of the British?

Typically, you and many others ignore the invasion of the area by the Arabs with their convert or die philosophy of Imperialistic Islam aimed at the Hindu, Buddhist and Christian populations. This view is yet another example of how myth becomes 'fact' if not challenged.

Kashmir was one of many princely states who were given the choice of following the partion of sectarian grounds. The Maharajah of Kashmir elected to become part of India; the Muslims of the State chose to fight his decision with armed insurrection. The British did not want to create a two state entity. Gandhi did not want to create a two state entity. The seeds of the current situation were sown long before partition by Islamic territorial ambitions.

'...But since the closing months of 1989, the Islamic fundamentalism struck the Valley of Kashmir, Firdaus (paradise on earth), with fanatic ferocity. The cult of the gun overwhelmed the ideals of human brotherhood preached for centuries by the Valley's Rishis, Sufis, saints and savants. And this paradise has became a hell'...
http://www.kashmir-information.com/PastPresent/index.html.

Parition was the direct result of a bloody determination of the Islamic League and Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The fight for a totally Islamic Kashmir and annexation to Pakistan has always been driven by this basket case nation with its warped theocratic version of governance.

The current situation has been created by Pakistan and is clearly not attributable to the historic presence of the British before or after partition.

11 May 2011 at 12:35  
OpenID scottspeig said...

Cranmer,

Jonny has already listed out a lot of errors. I personally think that had a "rainbow coalition" occurred, then the next election would have allowed full conservative principles to reign for a decade at least. Now though, the mess isn't that bad (for if it was, state spending would be on the decrease rather than increase) and the Tories will be blamed for hardship allowing Labour to walk away without too much loss.

I will judge the coalition on EU and EU alone. Lib dems want an in/out referendum and most conservatives would like one. Yet they show their true colours and refuse to let us have one. It will take more than words to entice me back.

11 May 2011 at 12:42  
OpenID scottspeig said...

@dreadnought

I think you missed Jonny's point - Cameron as a statesman said that.

We all know it to be junk!

11 May 2011 at 12:44  
Blogger Gnostic said...

The way Cameron is performing he'll go down in history pretty much like the Titanic did and all the while rearranging the deckchairs. The man is a blethering idiot and a shameless liar so why do you insist on trying to paint him as competent and accomplished statesman? It beggars belief, Your Grace. And if he's the least worst option what does that say about the state of British politics? I'll tell you what it says. It says that we are shafted.

11 May 2011 at 13:01  
Blogger James Reade said...

Utter rubbish, as usual. Can I encourage "His Grace" and his sycophantic followers towards http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/downchart_ukgs.php?year=1900_2011&state=UK&view=1&expand=&units=p&fy=2010&chart=G0-total&bar=0&stack=1&size=m&color=c&title=

Now I know you types don't like to look at actual data and evidence, because it gets in the way of a good prejudiced rant, but to say that the UK has not faced such economic peril since the times of Hitler just doesn't stack up. If you're thinking about the size of the national debt (which is references), well the last time it was this large was actually in the early 1970s, the times of Keynesian Conservative governments that inflated us on our way to the IMF and 1976 - shock, horror, I couldn't really be saying that a party other than Labour is capable of economic incompetence could I?!

I won't even bother to reference a simple bit of data work on the government deficit and economic growth since 1980 which shows that based on 18 years of Tory fiscal management, given the size of the downturn in 2007-08, the deficit should have been about 10% larger (fraction of GDP) than it actually was. No I will bother, the link is http://jesuswasnotarightwinger.blogspot.com/2011/04/little-bit-of-looking-at-data.html. But I know it doesn't support your prejudices or those of your readers, so you'll dismiss it as lies, damned lies and statistics. The reality is that it's the data - usually inconvenient for those that hold strong opinions and prejudices.

But hey ho, I don't even know why I'm bothering given this degree of prejudice. Facts like the maturity structure of UK debt meaning that the austerity drive was simply unnecessary are lost on people like you. We're not on a road to fiscal credibility because the economy is not growing thanks to Osborne and his crew and their ignorance of basic economics.

11 May 2011 at 13:09  
Anonymous LDS said...

Welcome Mr Reade I offer you a sign of peace. I am not quite sure what the points are that you are making.
1-If you are saying that Tory governments can be incompetent too then I for one would not disagree. In particular you wil not find many people around here with a good words for the 1970 Heath government. I have a lot of time for Healey (who was a cutter too was he not?).
2-Now if you are saying there is no problem with the deficit I, along with the Governor, the OECD (first warning 2001 I think), IMF, OBR and Alistair Darling beg to differ. The presumption seems to be that the deficit will cure itself a point of view which brings to mind Keynes criticisms of the "self correcting business cycle". This "there is no need to do anything" viewpoint is very much a Labour Party post being in opposition view.

The rather challenging tone and the deficit denying made me wonder if you were really Ed Balls but I see you are not. I was intrigued to see that you say on your blog that you were driven to it by claims that Jesus was of the right. I must say (I am from the Choir and Chasuble wing)that I have had exactly the opposite experience. I don't think that anyone should make any such claims would you not agree?

11 May 2011 at 14:57  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...

Agreed Mr Soctspeig - my profound apologies Mr Rottenborough I saw the red mist before you said 'said Camoron'

11 May 2011 at 15:25  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ Dreadnaught (15:25)—Think nothing of it. I’m more of the cold fury (rather than the red mist) type but I understand perfectly.

11 May 2011 at 15:34  
Blogger Bred in the bone said...

We used to have a choice between Blairs change or Camerons change.

Now we get Camerons muscular liberals verses Cleggs muscular liberals.

The first muscular liberal past the post will bring us change.

11 May 2011 at 15:50  
Anonymous MrJ said...

A veritable Cranmerian tour de force as well as d'horizon (forgive le franglais), but the allusion to one prime minister's bon mot (about preserving all that is good in our constitution...) calls to mind a later's mot juste: wait and see.

In the meantime, it is none too easy for hopefuls to turn blind eyes to JohnnyR's half-dozen (10:35).

And see what anguish is being felt by that cross-section for which Rebel Saint is speaking, who is driven to make comparison with the Church of Rome.

11 May 2011 at 16:48  
Anonymous Oswin said...

Bravo Johhny - common sense as per usual!

11 May 2011 at 17:39  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Your graces post raises a few new points in this unusual coalition that is having a bit of itchey phase at the moment.

Unfortunately politics is one of those professions where herculean tasks become forgotten. The abrupt downfall of one of the most decietful governments I have ever lived under , was a great moment ,I try not to contemplate if Labour had won ,that effort at least staved off somthing horrendus. The lib dem coalition came as a surprise ,but one I felt that if strong would prove worthwhile .I did not however think the coalition agreement offered was what was needed and as we have seen proved troublesome later on .The talk of merged party was disrespectful.
I never quite felt the financial arguments got put to bed properly , the chancellor getting his break when ed Balls vanished on question of bond ratings , and the later point that Obama was now having to cut ,instead of spend for growth , leaving some 10 months of labour spin a waste of public attention.
I think some polices have worked and some with the right long term effort will ensure some order returns.
My stars: Eric Pickles , Michael Gove , Ian Duncan Smith , Dominic Grieve ,Terresa May and George Young.
David cameron obviously fought both the general election and AV very well, but had some early moments of becoming manager in the little spats,that just kept eating credibility away .I put the Lib dems all too playtime hedgemoney and subtle disloyality to conservative remedies as being the reason for their local elections collapse ,either they did not understand what was wrong ,or they were still thought the lefts leftovers were viable/valuable winds .
I do not wish to diminish how difficult Labours legacy is nor withold some thanks and praise for managing thus far ,even though not all is my flavour. William Hague and Liam Fox have both had difficult areas .Andrew Lansley whilst right did not have a narrative that explained how A to B would be for both patient and cost , and whilst whishing to make the NHS a good organisation , had some difficulty in dealing with the bad areas and he should have more support in putting the details of the snags and new functions right ,to avoid costley mistakes (of which labour had many), I dont think he has forgotten the patient ,but Labour have done a good job making him sound that way.
The green agenda seems to have hit the growth agenda and come out the loser ,but the dissapointment is how some long term projects seem not to have been put in place. In 25yrs time the energy market will have problems of cost and fuel utilisation .I am still aggreived by the tinkering with GM foods selling woodland and cloned animals, which I think are beyond politics and having seen one nuclear tradegy we need to not be in the situation of the cost hidden power solutions to claim it is solved .
Labours left over HS2 was rushed in terms of green thinking a 200mph train using 4 times the electric (cost) than 125mph.
I had thought parliament had learnt a lesson about corruption ,if it hasnt that is no longer my fault , I still doubt some of the long term ecnomic thinking from all sides of the spectrum is little more than hustle rather than correct destination , the euro in point but also the dollar ,but Labour left such a dungeon of lies repleat with knighted failed millionaire bankers ,quango crats in lavish expense and the death grip of the EU .
If muscular liberalism is an acknowledgement of a Lib/left fail and a redress of the utter contempt for the ordinary work of ordinary folk and there lives and immigration ,then we have some idea the rot is being treated ,but the whinging that has gone on shows little so far.

11 May 2011 at 18:34  
Blogger The Last Dodo said...

I agree with the broad thrust of this blog.

Reform of the National Health Service must also be an objective by which we judge this government. I would rate it higher than reform of Education.

This will be perhaps the toughest challenge and one the LibDems are going to stamp their feet on as they seek to regain electoral credibility.

11 May 2011 at 18:39  
Blogger Span Ows said...

...isn’t Mr Cameron the least worst option to have as Prime Minister at this moment? And if he is the least worst, doesn’t that make him the best? Indeed! And this takes the sting (if not the truth) out of Johnny R's comments.

However I find myself in the position of agreeing with Rebel Saint's first comments (10:40)..and we can ignore James Reade's blatant strawman.

11 May 2011 at 20:26  
Anonymous bluedog said...

Your Grace

The re-birthing of Dave as alpha-male Flashman by some malign genius begs a number of questions:

1) Is Clegg a transiently submissive Tom Brown?

or

2) Is Clegg a perpetually and gratefully submissive Robin to Dave's Batman?


Other communicants may be able to enlighten me.

11 May 2011 at 22:03  
Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

@ Span Ows (20:26)—The sadness is that the headlines I quoted, whether they sting or not, should never in a thousand years have been generated by a Conservative prime minister, and as long as His Grace, yourself and other Tory voters are prepared to settle for the ‘least worst option’, instead of demanding the best, Britain’s decline will continue.

I dare say it’s more soothing for our decline to be managed by Conservatives (public school and beautiful table manners) rather than the John Prescotts of politics but, in the hands of Tory or Labour, the British nation is finished.

11 May 2011 at 23:27  
Anonymous not a machine said...

Johnny Rottenborugh : I rather hope not as I have sniffed what comes after the British Nation and its similar to dawn of the dead .

Interesting that Flashman was being run again at PMQS ,I think I will save it for Friday ,but what characture could Ed be described as? Dick Dastardly :) Roger Melly .
perhaps a reverse super hero Debtman .

I tried very hard to understand Mr Cleggs re position ,I just hope it will fend off the socialist serpents across the dispatch box.

12 May 2011 at 02:41  
Anonymous not a machine said...

might interest your grace , apparently in Rome about 1in5 people wanted the day off as a prophecy made in 1915 is said to have predicted a big earthquake for the city. Today southern spain has had a richter 4, an area I didnt even know was prone to them .

12 May 2011 at 03:28  
Blogger prziloczek said...

"At least no we are on the cusp of irreversible revolutions in both state education and welfare reform."

Regrettably not. What we are seeing in Education is a take over by the DfE of the Free Schools movement and the local county Councils.

12 May 2011 at 07:47  
Anonymous MrJ said...

Parliamentary reference to "Flashman" nothing but ill-bred, illogical and illiterate: Dave--Eton, Nick--Westminster; neither Rugby.

Greyfriars much more entertaining. Bob Cherry anyone? There must be quite a few fit for the Remove, while progress in education reform for mixed day schools continues to be stalled.

Once more Johnny R. 23:27 calls attention to an inconvenient truth.

12 May 2011 at 07:53  
Anonymous Voyager said...

the first coalition government in the UK since 1945

But as Your Grace well knows that Wartime Coalition ended on 23rd May 1945......

How many days to go....

12 May 2011 at 08:20  
Blogger Span Ows said...

comment test

12 May 2011 at 16:59  
Blogger Span Ows said...

Johnny Rottenborough
The sadness is that the headlines I quoted, whether they sting or not, should never in a thousand years have been generated by a Conservative prime minister...

I agree, is DC a Conservative?

...and as long as His Grace, yourself and other Tory voters are prepared to settle for the 'least worst option', instead of demanding the best, Britain's decline will continue.

You are forgetting the infallible logic that the least worse IS the best option...might not be good enough but still the best. The declein will continue until we are out of the EU. The unravelling ahs already begun.

I dare say it's more soothing for our decline to be managed by Conservatives (public school and beautiful table manners) rather than the John Prescotts of politics...

Yes

...but, in the hands of Tory or Labour, the British nation is finished.

The Silent people will speak soon Johnny.

12 May 2011 at 17:02  
Blogger William said...

Blogger taking comments again!

13 May 2011 at 17:37  

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