Monday, August 13, 2012


Confidence in Coalition's Longevity Collapses

When the Coalition was formed I discussed with my students regularly how long it would last. At first I thought it would not survive a year; then I thought it might go the distance; then I realised I just did not know! So the recent poll in the Guardian, is fascinating.

Last Tuesday I saw Nick Clegg speak in Manchester city centre. He was smooth and competent and wholly unimpressive, lacking any discernible charisma. But the Guardian poll asks some pretty serious questions about his future which he should perhaps address. Basically the poll asked respondents how long they thought the Coalition will last. End of year? Only 11%- still four points up on July. Will collapse within next two years? A whopping 43%, up from 23% last month. So much for Dave's vapid pursuit of reflected Olympic Glory. Break up a few months ahead of 2015 election? 19% compared with 23% in July. Will survive until the election? Only 16% compared with 23% last month.

Why the collapse? It must be cumulative: the Budget, the cash for access scandal, evidence of growing dissension over Lords reform and then the open rift. Voters do not like disagreements within parties and especially governments. As Lloyd George said 'You can't make a policy out of an argument'. Clegg and Cameron only recently 'relaunched' their agreement- it has failed catastrophically. They will try new relaunches- they will fail too I predict. One begins to sniff the familiar smell of a government in decay. Poor old Gordon's acquired it after less than a year but usually it takes over three years and in some cases-Thatcher, Blair- never arrives.

My feeling is the Coalition will limp on. The Economist offers a shrewd analysis of how Lords reform has weakened the government:

By trying to defuse rebellions in their own parties, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders have primed a much bigger bomb under the government. The coalition was once bound together by affinity, with the two parties discovering they agreed on a good deal, including school reform, localism and paying off the deficit. It is now held together more by a fear of what would happen if it dissolved: the Tories trail Labour in the polls, and the Liberal Democrats are floundering. This week may come to be seen as the point at which their pact began to fall apart. By describing the coalition agreement as a purely contractual affair, Mr Clegg inaugurated a new era of tit-for-tat politicking. The project looks less like a marriage and more like a bad-tempered game of chess. That is not in Britain’s interests.

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