Wednesday 11 May 2011

What now for the coalition?

One year on.

Plenty of opinion pieces on how well the coalition has done ranging from very well to evil. Listening to LBC's Yougov forum Its as good as any, even if it is extremely tribal and partisan. Outcome, Tories are doing better than expected, Labour a bit worse, Liberals, catastrophically badly. 60% in favour of the coalition continuing.

Nothing very remarkable really. The coalition could have had a much easier ride if the Liberals had sacrificed AV and electoral reform for tuition fees in the agreement. Coming on top of the expenses scandal with MP's integrity being at a new low, the 'Lying Democrats' made a fatal mistake. Liberals have lost all their hard won popularity for being 'the nice party.'
And lost it without much gain.

So what now?
BQ says..

1. Stop the NHS reform.
The government is reforming Health, Defence, Welfare, Education and Home. That's really the entire government. Arts and culture and F&CO are very small beer.
Mrs T was very careful to not fight too many battles at once. Tony Blair didn't like to have any battles, and wasted his first term, but had approval ratings that couldn't be overcome even two elections later, despite all his later problems. Now we know Dave wants to achieve everything day one, so that he can relax on the Sabbath, but the coalition really is cutting too fast, if not too far.
There is a golden opportunity to ditch this here. The Liberals need a massive win. The public don't understand why reform is necessary, the doctors aren't on side and the Tories promised no top down reform of the NHS... So dump it, or do a Blair and allow it to be so watered down its meanigless, and let the Lib Dems take a great slice of credit for 'defeating privatisation of the health service.'

2. The Economy.
That's all that matters. If no improvement then the cuts will have to be ever deeper, and last longer. There has to be growth. Tax reductions would be great, but that's impossible right now so there has to be more business initiatives. I can't recall what the Cable Guy's big ideas are? But unless the government can get investment for existing and new bushiness we are reliant on the banks making a profit, which they are reluctant to do.
Rates reductions, match funding grants for the smallest business, Vat holiday. A one year freeze on employer N.I payments for new starters, .. The old Labour government used to produce three or four of this sort of very expensive sound-bite chasing idea a week. The coalition should at least have SOME of them. A new business secretary wouldn't hurt either.

3. Sort the message.
The government is in the envious position of being able to do popular things that don't cost much. It should do them. A bit of distraction to keep the cuts, cuts, cuts, rolling news away.
Labour readily made non-pronouncements on nothing, repeated promises already made, re announced old ideas as if they were new. In short. It Spun like a gyroscope 24/7.
I'm not advocating a return to the transparent spin of the desperate Brown era, more a much better focused handling of the media to get them to talk about other things apart from cuts.
EU bailouts. Talk tough on how much, how long, how likely. Foreign trucks to have UK road fund licence. Divorce settlements and child access. Tackle the endless tube strikes. Ban them! {Public sector is already on strike. Might as well tackle something that's already burning and needs attention} The government doesn't have to DO anything on these, or similar initiatives, {though it should.} It just needs to make enquiries and get the papers interested.

4. The junior partner
Help them out, but don't worry too much. The liberals have nowhere to go. They can pretend to flounce off if they like, but that road leads to oblivion. Their slim chance of avoiding annihilation is to hang on until 2015, carving out a role for themselves and trying to undo the self inflicted wounds. Liberals only have themselves to blame for the mess they are in. Their position is so poor because they were caught lying on a huge scale. 'We pledge not to...erm..oh..we've done it.'
They can pretend to themselves that if they had formed their own government then they would never have increased Vat or fees or made any cuts but the reality is they stood on a fantasy manifesto, never expecting to achieve any power,and would have had the voter backlash with a Labour alliance too. Labour would have put up Vat and would have increased student fees.

So don't worry too much about placating the Liberals. They've had their Casablanca conference moment. From now on its Yalta, and they're only on the top table out of courtesy.


Nick Drew said...

if the Liberals had sacrificed AV and electoral reform for tuition fees in the agreement ...

that's a neat counterfactual

be careful what you wish for ...

Old BE said...

BQ, have you not understood the number of things that need to be fixed in this country? Absolutely the worst thing that Thatcher "did" was to focus solely on the economy while not touching education and health until far too late in her reign. That meant that people saw the Tories as simply the economics party giving New Labour the room it needed to be the public services party.

measured said...


Some home truths being laid bare there.

Why didn't the liberals just say we will support you from the sidelines in parliament, but we don't need to be in government with you?

Nick Drew said...

measured - possibly because there are no ministerial cars involved in your suggested approach ??

Budgie said...

What the LibDems think, or even what the Tories think, matters very little. The "cuts" won't work because they are top down. And although the deficit is being shaved the debt is rising very rapidly.

The only way is to cut the amount that government does. The two obvious candidates are DfID and EU membership. Scrap both (tinkering won't work) and we have nearly eliminated the deficit.

Bill Quango MP said...

ND. Its all hindsight. We all knew something would set off a backlash, just not what. It could have been Child tax credits, Libraries, Libya.

But I very much doubt any party will be issuing pledge card and cast iron promises at the next election.

BE: By tackling everything, the risk is that nothing will be completed, and everyone will be disappointed.
If the coalition tackled half of what it is attempting, it would still be the most reforming post WW2 government.

It all hinges on the economy. I'm suggesting that if the economy is repaired, an election win will follow, and time for reform gained.
There aren't enough capable ministers. The central tasks are huge and would dominate any parliament.
Its a mistake to have enemies on every flank.

Measured: As ND suggests. And it was their one chance in almost a hundred years to prove that they could be a partner in government.

Its going to be on political science courses for years. "How the Liberals never prepared for the coalitions that they were fighting to join."

Budgie: Its all relative. Even it the Coalition just stops the increase its something.

Foreign aid ring fencing does seem a mistake. i think it was chosen because its a bugger all saving that sounded 'caring'.
It can certainly be frozen in future.
Europe is a whole other debate. One that no part has a stomach for.
UKIP excepted.

James Higham said...

That's all that matters. If no improvement then the cuts will have to be ever deeper, and last longer. There has to be growth. Tax reductions would be great, but that's impossible right now so there has to be more business initiatives.

Two incompatible ideas here, Bill. Cuts mean stagnation, holding off cuts and cutting tax equals growth.

Bill Quango MP said...

JH: Politically, JH, Politically impossible.
The coalition has a tough enough job in the media a it is.
To allow

"Evil Tories and their poodle partners axe youth training centres to give their millionaire chums tax cuts."

& the debt does have to be tackled. Can't hold off the cuts. Even Labour agree on that with only a thin sliver between the two manifestos.

PS Hope you are attending the question time quiz for the new season. Have written a post for later on with you in mind!

Anonymous said...

There is no point in waiting for the banks to make a profit because even when they do, it will be mainly offshore and under the new rules no UK tax to pay, so totally irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

It's all academic as the decline of the West accelerates for all the well known reasons.

It's clear that the Tory's are in the pocket of multi-nationals whose agency is to slash wages/pensions/benefits. I'd expect that in the next 10 years the rising living standards of the middle classes in Uttar Pradesh will cross with those of declining Surrey.

The elite fools in Westminster know they daren't tell the sheeple the truth, so will continue to hollow-out the national wealth by stealth or otherwise in the hope the Ponzi scheme won't finally collapse during their term.

I have no doubt that in 20 years, living standards in England will be back to those of the 1930s.

hatfield girl said...

'Plenty of opinion pieces on how well the coalition has done ranging from very well to evil.'

Eery, some of these pieces. They call for future undertakings that are already behind us. The Scots have had their referendum - and chosen to end Labour's hegemony and run their own domestic policies for Scotland. The whole country has had its election and chosen one-nation conservatism in alliance with the Liberals. The election and its aftermath demonstrate there is no progressive centre-left majority cheated of its high-tax, big-state, social-egalitarian, managed post-democratic agenda by brownian revulsion and cameronian trickery. We've had the events that the media keep discussing. Haven't they noticed?

Lower taxes, keep their noses out of our lives, no we don't want permanent administration with slight alterations in personnel occasionally, we want to tell them to clear off every four or five years.

Eery, discussing the past as if it is in the future.

Electro-Kevin said...

I have a horrible feeling that Bob Crow will be this Tory administration's Arthur Scargill - except more powerful and pugnacious.

I fear that the RMT will win and win again on this front but that members in the regions and rural areas will end up paying.

The McNulty report is expected to make unsettling reading.

If only the professionalism and dedication of the staff on local services in my region could be duplicated in London ...

A marked difference in attitude in my extensive experience of both networks.

Anonymous said...

Of course, with a Cabinet of 20 ££ millionaires, it makes complete sense to return to the Victorian era of indentured labour and sending kiddies down t'pit, or it's modern day equivalent of moving all production to Poland.

The elite 1% will only be happy when the middle-classes are crushed and everyone is on piece work until carried away in a wooden overcoat.

Electro-Kevin said...

Agree with Blue Eyes entirely on Thatcher btw.

Britain was at a cross roads in the '8os. It was still a wonderful place then - gently but assertively British and integrating newcomers at a sensible pace.

She took us down the wrong cultural route. Betrayed the white working class males and did nothing to prevent them from being undermined - resulting in the bastard underclasses of white male illiterates we have today.

Over rated in so many ways.

It is not simply about the economy. That will not make Britain better. We went down hill dramatically in a cultural sense during the 'boom' years.

In fact there's much to be said for having no money so that the leftist welfare state, which is so corrosive, dries up.

It is about keeping law and order and respect in our communities.

On this Thatcher failed.

Electro-Kevin said...

And agreeing with Anon at 7.30

All the more reason to concentrate on making this country decent and law abiding rather than wealthy.

Bill Quango MP said...

Anon. Don't really agree. I don't think multi nationals are a united force. If Tesco could cripple Sainsbury's they would. They may collude, but they aren't in league.
On a side note 1930's Britons enjoyed a living standard second only to the United states.
Germans were in poverty. French were in denial and running a sort of 1970's fantasy UK economy.

But I do agree on the banks. They have debts upon to debts to write of against tax. Ironically, paying the bankers bigger bonuses would probably net the country greater wealth.

HG: I fear its fleeting though. The coalition must have measurable success or end in failure and another Labour term.
Lower taxes will come. When they do it will herald the next boom.
You got a mention on LBC the other night. Angel in Marble blog plug from Mr Dale.

EK: I meet unions all the time, but not the rail ones. I don't know what their hold is.
Mrs T would be thinking of a second term plan to clip them. Importing Polish drivers or something. I'm well aware of how the metropolitan and the rural unions differ.
as for Mrs T, well she wasn't my cup of tea. I lost out under the Tories bi time. There were a lot of mistakes. But they need to be seen in the context of the 1970's.
By the mid 80'sthe UK was envied by the statist,stagnant economies of Europe.
Just a few years before we were considered much as Greece is considered today.

Labour's biggest failing was not tackling the problems left by the Thatcher era, even though they had all the resources this country is ever likely to have,to do it with.
Disability benefits not checked for 25 years? Baby numbers linked to benefit income.Higher payments for single, rather than co-habiting. Immigration to fill low paid jobs. Crime statistics prevention, instead of actual crime prevention. and on and on..
Jut perverse really.

CityUnslicker said...

I say crush the lib desm, what is their alternative, losing their jobs thats what. let alon ministerial cars; out of work and unemployable.

They won't go tfor that; Cameron holds all the cards now, the time for pacifying the lib dems is over. He knows it too, if you watch PMQ's today he has no interest in their welfare anymore.

Hoist by their own petard.

If you think about it, it was always going to happen SDLP and Liberals always had to face both ways at once and a tase of power would alienate at least 50% of the party.

Timbo614 said...

I'm not sure who, out of the above, to agree with. EK makes some good observations especially about it not all being about GDP. GDP is a terrible indicator of how well a country is doing for its people.

The cuts are necessary to reduce the enormous debt or we lose the market and end up like Greece paying 10%+ for our loans, plus for any entity from a person to a planet, paying off debt is good.

Anon @7:30 also is partially correct too - we (in the west) have actually been digging our own grave by outsourcing jobs, technology and production, but I don't think the UK establishment is quite in the grip of the corporatists to the extent the USA seems to be. "Globalisation" too is eventually doomed to decline.

If anyone has a good explanation of how we extract 150%+ of the resources of 100% of Earth, Please let me know.

England has certainly lost its "niceness", many people I know actually feel persecuted. Everyone and every thing is over regulated and over priced, over fined, overdone basically.

Dave's Big Society is actually a good idea but we need to start with Small Societies and build from there. Most local councils are central to this but are no longer considered a community effort or benefit, they are slowly becoming oppressors, milking every situation for that extra bit of revenue. If I were Dave that is where I would start.

Steven_L said...

The mood among council workers is getting more and more well if they want us to do this for them they should pay for it.

Of course, 9 times out of 10 they already are via VAT, NI, income tax, council tax etc.

The key to sorting things out is deregulation. Just repeal vst swaithes of the stuff. The trouble is the vested interests shout the loudest.

Look at the hallmarking section on Dave's 'red tape challenge' for example. The Assay Office sent out tens of thousands of emails to drum up support.

OK, so the Assay Office is self funding, but there is no good reason why minimum fineness convention hallmarks can't be a voluntary quality standard rather than a statutory obligation.

Botogol said...

cuts cuts..

John Redwood keeps pointing out that Govt spending is planned to rise £100bn pa over the life of parliament... (scratches head)

hatfield girl said...

Iain Dale put up with lots of comments on his blog from me before I felt shamed into setting up my own, Mr Q. I wish he'd return to writing on his blog every day. Very generous host and sharp insights.

Timbo614 said...

Looks like blogger is back on line but has deleted your world famous competition.

Bill Quango MP said...