Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Coalition considerations

First thoughts on the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition...

From the nationalist, BNP-supporting point of view it's probably slightly more acceptable than a Lib/Lab pact. If we get the best of both worlds we'll have the Lib Dem's civil rights with the Tory sound economic management and euro-scepticism. That's if we get the best of both worlds.

The coalition will probably be quite stable. Neither side really has much to gain by rocking the boat. The various ministers are likely to work well together on a day to day basis.

But over time one suspects that the Lib Dems will start to feel irked. Continual bridesmaid status will stultify the party. Imagine a by-election, can the Lib Dems stand a candidate against the Tories? If yes, can that candidate have policies different from the Conservative's? If no there's little point having a distinct candidate but if yes then doesn't that break the coalition?

And in parliament the Lib Dems can no longer criticise the government, because they are the government. But they are not government enough to make new policy. So they will be in the position of having to agree with the Tories without having much input into Tory policy; whatever they agreed in that secret meeting yesterday is all they are ever going to get.

The Lib Dems may think they are the tail that can wag the dog and that by threatening to leave the coalition they can steer the Tories, but, firstly it seems they have signed up for a fixed term, and secondly, whichever party "breaks" the government will be punished at the subsequent election; it won't look good to the public if you're the one who brought down the government. So they're pretty much locked in.

It will take quite a while for the degree of constraint they are under to become apparent to the Lib Dems, so we can expect a long honeymoon period. The drama is probably over for many months or even years now.

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