Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What will the Coalition's first hurdle be?

Since the creation of the coalition government there has been a buzz around; the first buzz was about the coalition agreement itself and what the Conservatives and LibDems would put forward, culminating in the Queens Speech. However the second and newest buzz is now around what the coalitions first hurdle will be.

Labour, large sections of the media, the commentators and the like are all on the look out for the signs of cracks, division and problems ahead.

Could it be the resignation of David Laws? No - that issue, if anything, made the coalition stronger. It was, in some ways, more a human story than a political one.

Could it be the new Deputy LibDem Leader Simon Hughes, a noted leftie and long-time Tory critic? Well, it may be - he's certainly making noises about VAT and the bizarre prospect of LibDem spokespeople outside of government. However so far even he doesn't seem to have the will to shake the government's cage.

So what does that leave? The answer may look more like an A level politics answer.

We always knew that the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats could make a legislative agenda between them. There is enough crossover between the manifesto documents to create a programme of lawmaking. There is probably enough areas of compromise to keep this going. By year 3 it may be difficult and that will test the metal of both sides.

However the big problems may arise in the use of the Executive function of govenrment. Much more likely is the fall out from day-to-day management. What happens when a problem arises and a LibDem Minister acts in a way that the Conservatives - or his Conservative Secretary of State - doesn't agree with? Or vica-versa with the Conservatives making decisions that irritate the LibDems? This is much more likely to happen sooner rather than later and will certainly be the test of the govenrment. A European crisis? An immigration problem? A foreign affairs issue?

So, do I think the use of the Executive power could cause the coalition to falter? Maybe, but I rather think not. I trust that the leaderships of both parties have this worked out in advance and a plan for this eventuality is worked through. People say that the strong personal relationship between Clegg and Cameron would stop this from happening. In addition there is a sense from the public that this government deserves a chance.

The thing which I think marks this government out is how grown up it seems to be. I think when the time comes both sides will admit there is an issue and work through it. Be honest, admit there is a disagreement, debate it and stop pretending everyone always agrees (check out the mess Labour are making of disowning the Brown era in their leadership election).

So where is the hurdle? Your guess is as good as mine!


Joe Egerton said...

I enjoyed this, but disagree. There are strong mechanisms in the cabinet system to handle executive disputes - the machinery may have got rusty between 1997 and 2010 and some maintenance was neglected since the advent of Callaghan but it's there and should work with a little oil. See my blog on the 1919-1922 coalition - at www.ignacity.com

Frugal Dougal said...

Perhaps an effective riposte to Labour troublemaking will be that, during the immediate post-election negotiations, Labour was offering a change to proportional representation without a referendum.

Tapestry said...

The Conservative backbench is more likely to explode under LD provocation than the cabinet.