It won’t come as a surprise to most Tories that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams isn’t a fan of theirs, though I imagine even they are surprised at the quite frank criticisms he has levelled at them in his editorial for the New Statesman which is previewed here.
Williams focuses on the speed and depth of reforms that the Tories and their coalition partner are making but for me, the most interesting point he raises is that of whether the coalition has a genuine mandate for making such reform. I don’t question the validity of the coalition and neither should anyone else, but surely it’s right to question whether a party that failed to gain a majority on the strength of it’s manifesto should be able to forge ahead with it anyway thanks to the support of a party with a markedly different manifesto?
The question can be applied here in Northern Ireland, quite obviously. Where we have a system that guarantees coalition, is there really any point to a party putting out a manifesto when it really is nothing more than a list of promises they have little hope of fulfilling? Tom Elliot was right to talk about an agreed programme for government but it was never likely that he would follow up on it and it still wouldn’t resolve the issue that the public can’t really vote for specific reforms or radical change. Instead they have to blindly support broad ideology in the hope that it will produce the right result after it’s been through the coalition mill.
There’s no easy solutions to the problem but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying to find them.