Friday, May 14, 2010
A Match Made in Heaven?
Looking for all the world like the happy couple who've just celebrated their civil partnership, here is our new Prime Minister, and Deputy Prime Minister. After a hung parliament, a situation which I was hoping for, we now have a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, a situation that I was not hoping for (#condem nation is already trending on twitter).
I'm trying not to be too down about the Tories being back in government, but it is hard not to be pessimistic about the next couple of years. I have to say I'm glad I didn't vote Lib Dem, as I was close to doing. I'd be pretty gutted at the moment as, like most Lib Dem voters, I didn't want the Tories in. (not that it feels much better having voted Labour).
However, I can't really say that I blame Clegg for doing what he has. He was in an impossible situation and probably got the best he could out of it, knowing that he was going to be unpopular whichever way he jumped. Much as I would have preferred a Labour/Lib Dem coalition the numbers just didn't work. Besides, it sounds like Labour were being far less flexible in their negotiations with the Lib Dems. Nervous as I am about a mainly Tory government, I'm not sure the Lib Dems had much option. If they had gone with Labour, or even walked away from the Conservatives, leaving them to form a minority government, they would've got slaughtered.
There are a couple of obvious moans for starters. The new coalition government couldn't be any more white, privileged, male if it tried. There are more men called Dave than there are women. The requirement of 55% of parliament in order to dissolve parliament reeks of power grabbing constitution making on the fly. The reduction in MPs and redrawing of constituencies will obviously benefit the Tories.
However, I've decided to try and find a few glimmers of hope, and look on the bright side of what could be a bad situation:
scrapping the idea of increasing the threshold for inheritance tax
taking those earning up tp £10,000 out of income tax
scrapping ID cards
abandoning plans for 3rd runway at Heathrow
extra money for schools taking the poorest pupils
this is all good stuff if it ends up happening, and should have been part of any Labour concessions.
See the rest of the Coalition Agreement here
Of course, the Conservatives were never going to give any ground on immigration, or Trident (although Libs have managed to get the costing of a possible Trident replacement in the Defence spending review).
Clegg could have pushed harder on electoral reform. I'm not sure AV is much of an improvement. Having said that, much as I would be in favour of some form of PR, the British public, not to mention the 24 hour news media, do not seem to have the stomach for the hung parliament/ coalition forming scenario. After four days they were starting to get very twitchy and irritated that these dumb politicians couldn't sort it all out. Maybe there'll be able to get some form of PR for the Lords, and we'll see how that goes.
The big compromise they've had to make is on making the huge cuts now rather than waiting, as Vince Cable always maintained was necessary. In fact, Cable looks the least happy with the arrangement.
My hope is that the Lib Dems manage to have some real influence and help to take the edge off some of the harsher plans of the Torys. A more progressive Conservative party and, in time, a reinvigorated centre-left, Labour opposition with a new leader, and we could be in an interesting situation. Quite what will happen, given the depth of cuts that are about to be rolled out, and the unhappiness of the grass-roots of all the parties, we'll have to see.