Friday, May 13, 2011


Coalition Anniversary: Cameron's Year

So it's been a year. Some denied it would last this long but one has to say that the government looks well set on Friday 13th May. The Economist's angle is that it all went pretty well until the AV referendum campaign soured the atmosphere very badly. It reckons in three of its four main areas of priority it has done pretty well, From 203 academies in May last year, we now have 629 though growth of the 'free' schools initiative -new schools with academy style freedoms- has not been so prolific. [The economist thinks the ban on running 'free' schools for profit should be lifted]. On welfare Iain Duncan Smith is seeking to bring order to the byzantine complexity of a benefits system which succeeds in dissuading those on benefit to return to work.

The journal also mentions the imminent introduction of elected police commissioners, presumably written before the House of Lords scuppered the plan. Finally it admits health has been a 'debacle' with Andrew Lansley's highly personal plan having to be 'paused' for a rethink which may see its main provisions abandoned. Not only the Lib Dems and Labour but a fair number of Tories also opposed this measure.

The Economist also applauds the Big Society theme as a 'vision of the state: more locally accountable, more plural in its provisio0n of services.' I find this bit a tad hard to accept as surely it remains merely a vision, a rhetorical flourish which served its purpose yet embarrassingly survived the election. On Cameron's governing style I was intrigued by the analysis. At first Cameron sought to be a 'chairman' in Cabinet, disdaining the hyperactivity of both his predecessors.

The result was stalled reforms and NHS crisis o Cameron assumed a more energetic mode, taking on staff and tracking the many and various aspects of policy. He has struggled, it seems with the civil service which, as Blair found, has proved hostile to change; he used a coded reference to attack them: 'enemies of enterprise' much to their annoyance. But overall Cameron has proved a 'natural' at the job of PM. he said he'd be good at it and so far he has, especially politically. No surprise that while Lib Dems lost 748 council seats last Thursday the Tories actually gained 86 unexpected ones.

Simon Jenkins' piece today says something similar:

The British have never minded the ruling class doing what it says on the packet, provided some deference is shown to the bourgeoisie. Cameron has been adept at that. Public school charm, even with a touch of caddishness, as deployed by Cameron and Tony Blair, may be scorned by the Westminster club, with its distaste for charisma and celebrity. But when combined with humour and a self-deprecating confidence, it can carry a leader over the bumps and potholes of politics, where such men as John Major and Gordon Brown stumble and fall.

His concluding paragraph I quote in full as it sums up what I have to admit, relectantly as a Labour supporter, as fair comment:

The past year has seen Cameron emerge as a political leader of real ability. He won last week's voting referendum with panache, releasing his attack dogs on the enemy while shrugging off Lib Dem cries of foul. He has sustained the "emergency coalition" aura of his government with greater finesse than did Lloyd George in 1916 or Ramsay MacDonald in 1931. He has yet to experience a serious political crisis or, with the exception of Libya, risk a possibly fatal trap. The cartoons are right. The head of school has a right to be cocky.

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