Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Coalition blues (again, briefly - sorry)

"Why is our government so accident-prone?", asked Sunder at LC a while back. But it is confidence, not being accident-prone, that strikes me as the outstanding characteristic of this government. Astonishing confidence - zeal, you could even say. Why is an interesting question but for now one feature of this deserves more attention than it has hitherto been given. This is a coalition government but as Paul Sagar says today, "you'd be hard-pressed to recognise this as a coalition government at all".

Given that the text-book treatment of coalitions always has it that they tend to produce more moderate and less hyper-active governments built on compromise, the question as to why this isn't the case with this one?

On the subject of how to treat the Lib Dems, Jamie made the following suggestion:
"[T]hey should be treated as if they no longer exist. This is, after all, how Nick Clegg is treating them, and he should know."
I thought this was rather good - Paul didn't agree. But with the audacious budget, the proposed reforms to the NHS and now with educational reform presently hurtling through the legislature, I think Jamie's thesis deserves more serious consideration. In Paul's comments MatGB took great exception to this. If power was all Laws and Huhne were interested in, why didn't they defect when asked? Big pond, small fish would be a simple answer. Every A-level politics student knows, or should know, that coalitions give leverage to smaller parties - it makes small fish bigger.

This might be unfair but frankly I struggle to see a more plausible explanation. And I am certainly struggling to see what, exactly, is the moderating effect that the Liberals are supposed to be having?

Finally, I would have to say that the Liberals' constitutional piety means absolutely nothing to me at all if controversial legislation of this nature can be stream-rolled through Parliament in a manner which would make a Thatcher or a Blair green with envy. Both of these had whopping majorities - Cameron doesn't have one at all. Or maybe he does...
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