The Spectator captures the moment. Despite signs of stresses and strains in the ranks, Cameron and Clegg are in two part harmony to keep open their options on renewing the coalition after the next election. At the same time, they are trying to reassure their own parties that they know can’t afford to leave them behind.
‘Of course I expect Conservatives and Liberals will fight elections separately. We have different underlying philosophies and differences in approach and policy. But obviously if we are fighting a separate election after a successful five-year government, I hope we will be relatively polite about each other.’ The usual election battle between the parties would be ‘rather odd having had a government we could be proud of.
It’s too early to even hint at a pre-election pact. Under the shadow of the cutting axe, party nerves are so frayed already that the very idea could provoke rebellion in the ranks of both parties. Not to mention the idea of scores of MPs being forced to fight re-selection battles for new constituencies and sharing the praise or blame for the coalition’s eventual record with rival candidates at the polls.
To the Guardian Nick Clegg delivers one of his vision statements that help to make sense of the political risks he’s taking over a AV referendum and other constitutional reforms.
I am a revolutionary but I am also a pragmatist”… There is a Labour assumption that this coalition is an unnatural act, and all we have to do is put it back in a box, and carry on as before. I really think they are missing something much more profound. That is why people out there, as opposed to the Westminster village, are warming as much as they are to the coalition. That is a deep change in the way people regard politics psychologically.
So coalition doesn’t necessarily mean Con Dem coalition. The door could open – just – to a revived Labour party, even thiugh just now Labour is spitting tacks at the Lib Dems for betraying the so-called progressive consensus.
Down in the Lib Dem engine room the vision is darker. And in the Tory core, fears rise of a Hobson’s choice of coalition collapse or a permanent leftward drift – which the Speccy, usually coalition sceptic, plays down.
Meanwhile precocious Head Boy Michael Gove is finding out that government is even harder than it looks from the opposition benches or the offices of the Times…
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London