Published on November 13th, 2014 |
by Chris Cooper-Davies
The Coalition is falling apart
Norman Baker’s exit from the Home Office last week in a storm of anti-Tory- specifically anti-Theresa May- rhetoric, is yet another sign the coalition is falling apart. It comes as the latest episode in a string of coalition controversies stretching back to Vince Cables scathing exclamation in October that the Tories were ‘ideologically committed to destroying public services and the Welfare State’ and Nick Clegg’s damning accusations in the wake of the Conservative Party conference that May had lied to the Nation when she proposed that the Liberal ‘torpedoing’ of the Communications Data Bill had potentially endangered 13 children’s lives. May, it seems, is receiving the majority of the Liberal flak.
The Tory’s, of course, give as good as they get. May’s accusations were provocation enough and Cameron was quick to support her, while Damian Green, a former Tory Home Office Minister, has jumped to support May’s position in the Home Office, throwing Baker’s (pictured above) rock and roll analogy that life in the Ministry for him was like being ‘the only Hippy in at an Iron Maiden gig’ back in his face. Baker, Green proposed, was like a guitarist only interested in his own solos.
On both sides, the jostling is premeditated. The Lib Dems know they have to distance themselves from their Tory colleagues if they are to achieve any success in next May’s election. Baker, like many of his colleagues, must be particularly worried about his personal prospects. With a majority of only 7000 in his Lewes constituency, he could easily be leaving parliament next year. His noisy exit from the government, rock and roll analogies aplenty, and impassioned cajoling of May- a figurehead for the Tory right, is directed at those voters he wooed in 2010, amidst the Lib Dem hype, but could now easily loose.
One cannot help think it’s too little too late. No matter how much the Lib Dems talk about their valiant attempts to curb the worst excesses of Conservative policy, and no matter how hard they try now to distance themselves from four year of collaboration, the shadow of tuition fees will hang over them for the foreseeable future.
The Tory’s will be happy with the disintegration too. If they want to avoid voter defection to UKIP they need to take a step to the right- especially on issues such as immigration and membership of the EU. The Lib Dems- proudly the party of ‘In’- are nothing but shackles to their endeavours here.
Again, though, it may also be too little too late. UKIP, since the acquisition of an MP and their success in the European elections, are building up impressive momentum. A Conservative jump to right facilitated by a break down in coalition governance could persuade a few not to join the Farage bandwagon, but one would be hard pressed to say that few will be enough. And the Conservative line many have proposed will serve them most affectively, that a vote for UKIP is a vote for Labour, is unlikely to perform miracles. For UKIP are appealing to the disaffected; and for the disaffected a vote for UKIP is a vote of protest against a broken system- in which the three main parties are equally culpable.
At present, the Lib-Con fighting conjures a particularly unpleasant caricature of Whitehall for observers; one of civil servants diligently keeping the country moving in whatever way they see fit, unimpinged by their democratically elected bosses whose sole concern now is to berate the degrade their colleagues in high office.
Considering, therefore, that the current bout of Lib-Con squabbling is unlikely to transform either party’s individual 2015 prospects, it might be reassuring for voters if they put their differences aside in the short term. The immanency of the general election does not mean governance stops being important. The executive still needs to function and its heads still need to collaborate accordingly.
Indeed, is it not possible that perhaps voters would reward both parties if they managed to get along and govern out the next six months without any more emotional outbursts or resignations? Then, if it is necessary for them to again enter into coalition- an entirely plausible scenario- the public might have some faith left in them.
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