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On both main planks of strategy, political and economic, coalition is misfiring

Posted on 12 May 2011 | 8:05am

To return to one of my favourite themes … David Cameron didn’t win the election because he lacked strategic clarity. The public gave it to him – make a coalition work and sort out the economy.

That sense of shared purpose is dissipating quickly. Just one year from the Rose Garden civic partnership ceremony, Nick Clegg is telling anyone who still listens that he is a moderating influence and David Cameron is turning up as panto vilain to his own backbenchers to proclaim ‘oh no he’s not.’

Another of my favourite themes – division is habit-forming, the defeat for the government in the Lords on police reform is the latest example.

But it is Cameron’s remarks to the 1922 committee of his own backbenchers which are the most interesting example of the new mood in the coalition. He is effectively telling his MPs to ignore Clegg’s claims of influence and to understand that he is determined to do all he can to get an outright majority next time. A week ago he felt he had to build Clegg up. Now he is joining in the knocking Clegg down.

Another favourite theme – guided by George Osborne, Cameron will try at some point later in the Parliament to ‘park’ the Lib Dems and go it alone. Yesterday was but the latest signal of that, and clearer than for some time.

The problem both parties and leaders have is that they are beginning to look and sound like they care much more about their own status, profile and positions than the problems they have been asked to resolve.

It wouldn’t matter so much if their economic strategy was working. But it isn’t. We are now heading for inflation levels and inaction that make a mockery of the independent Bank’s role. We are also still no nearer getting an answer about how the private sector is going to fill the gaps Osborne is creating with his programme of cuts and sackings.

So the two central challenges for the coalition – show that the coalition can work and sort the economy – are not being met. Cameron is becoming more peevish. Clegg is looking more desperate. And Osborne is beginning to wonder whether he might need a Plan B after all.

  • Doreenogden

    So high time Labour got its act to-gether !

  • Watoop

    The most important outcome of the local elections may well not be the Lib Dem collapse but the fact that the Tory vote held up in the mid 30%s, despite predictions of losses. This just might convince the “hawks” in Cameron’s inner circle to start whispering that now is the time to go for a majority on the back of “national economic emergency” with Labour not yet looking ready for government.
    Would he get it? I can imagine the Tory donors would put their hands in their pocket again and with Labour and the Lib Dems cash-strapped, the Conservatives would dominate the media.
    I hope against hope that the British public would see sense and get him out but, given the AV result etc, I’m less sure than I was that this country is largely “progessive” in nature (certainly south of Watford).

  • Excellent as always. But one thing which might get them off the hook is a sharp drop in commodity prices. That would lead to more growth and lower inflation. Osborne actually has more room for a Plan B than he admits. But Labour needs a Plan B too in case the economy picks up.

  • RickEveleigh

    Like. Agree. etc

    Here’s another reason why The Big Society is One Big Joke.

    So charities and volunteers are meant to take up the slack from the cuts in services to central & local govt?

    Our church is a charity and does a lot of valuable social work in its community. But we have also been directly hit by not once but twice by this shambles of an administration, first by the rise in VAT — charities cannot claim it back but of course businesses can (and presumably banks, but I digress…); second a cut in Gift Aid from 28% to 25% — which also doesn’t affect businesses.

    I’m speechless.

  • Mark Wright

    Tories love the thrill of the hunt. And right now they smell blood.

    The entrails scattered across the country following the catastrophic collapse in the Lib Dem vote must surely give Cameron somewhat of a political dilemma: finish off the Lib Dems once and for all at their time of greatest political and financial weakness or prop them up for another four years at the risk of their resurgence in the polls.

    There will never be a better time. I’m sure some are urging him to do just that.

    The risk is a public backlash for betraying his coalition partners and putting party politics before the good of the country. I would suggest he needs the cover of the Lib Dems for a few months yet.

    But the Libs are a wounded animal right now. And when a hunter smells blood nothing will stop them from hunting down their prey.

    At such time the Lib Dems won’t be so much ‘parked’ as ‘torn to pieces’. It will not be pretty.

  • SG

    ‘……beginning to look and sound like they care much more about their own status, profile and positions than the problems they have been asked to resolve’

    You could probably make the same assertion about every politician !

  • Olli Issakainen

    Muscular liberalism from the Lib Dems? We will see…
    Alastair Campbell said in 2010 that entering the coalition would be a historic and strategic mistake for the Lib Dems. Last week´s double disaster for Mr Clegg is proving him right.
    The rose garden politics are over. “New politics” that was promised never materialized.
    As I wrote yesterday, there was no “economic emergency” in May 2010. The bond markets were not panicking, and they were not forcing huge cuts. There was no need to form a coalition in “national interest” as the debt was only 53.5% of GDP.
    Mr Clegg´s idea during the first year of coalition was to show that coalition goverments work. But according to ComRes survey 49% say that the coalition has been bad for Britain.
    So, we are now entering a “new phase” of British politics. Mr Clegg´s political weakness will now also be the coalition´s biggest weakness.
    The Lib Dems have now woken up to a grim fact: instead of power-sharing their role is blame-taking! The Tories have remained unscathed.
    For the Tories, coalition is working. And for Mr Cameron, it is keeping the rightwing of his party quiet.
    Will Mr Clegg be able to ask for concessions? It would not be very democratic after the election losses.
    Nick Clegg cannot walk out. But at some point Mr Cameron will probably show him the door. Annihilation at general election waits the Lib Dems. Already their influence at local level has been wiped out.
    Is being in the coalition worth all this?
    At the moment the Lib Dems have no serious future as a party.
    And the full impact of the ideological cuts is still to be felt.
    If we go back to May 2010, we can all remember Greece. By comparing Britain to Greece (a radically different case), Mr Osborne managed to get support for his deficit-reduction plan.
    But now this austerity is not working.
    There is no purpose in Mr Osborne´s plan. He is only making the public debt private again as Britons must borrow more.
    The great success story of the coalition has been to redefine the financial crisis as crisis of public deficit and debt. Banks have been left off the hook.
    David Cameron said that without his £110bn austerity package Britain´s interest rate payments would be £70bn. How much they will be after all this unnecessary pain? £67.2bn a year by 2014/15. A totally unsustainable level.
    It is also worth remembering that 64% of RBS´s businesses were overseas. For Lloyds TSB the figure was 47%. What could Labour have done about it?
    There should be no cuts in capital investment now.
    Mr Osborne has made one of the biggest macroeconomic mistakes in Britain´s history with his austerity package.
    Inflation will hit 5%. The BoE has lowered its growth forecasts for 2011 and 2012.
    Consumer spending is down. Prices are rising, Taxes are higher. House prices are falling.
    And then there will also be unforeseen events.
    Iran might attack Israel. Terrorists might now use a dirty bomb against the US. Eurozone might collapse. And there might be a huge earthquake in the US.
    Mr Osborne needs a plan B – and soon!

  • ambrosian

    Those saying that Cameron might cut and run with an early election are forgetting the fixed term Parliaments legislation. An early election could still be triggered by a no confidence vote. But the coalition has changed the rules on that too so that such a vote would require a two thirds majority instead of a simple majority of one. No doubt there are still loopholes that would enable Cameron to engineer an early election (or he could contrive a showdown with the LibDems that would provoke them to leave the coalition) but this would be so blatantly cynical and self-interested that he would probably be punished at the polls.

  • Richard

    “Iran might attack Israel. Terrorists might now use a dirty bomb against the US. Eurozone might collapse. And there might be a huge earthquake in the US.”
    Whatever are you on today Olli? Did you have a dream, or is this your wish list ? What would the Labour position be on providing for such “unforeseen events?” Catch a grip!

    AC remember last Thursday.Milliband secured 37% of the vote, Cameron 35%.The public, suffering as they are, have not for one minute bought your analysis, or that of Red Ed.

  • Duncan Phipp-MacIntyre

    Be careful what you wish for – G.B’s lust for premiership and Clegg’s rapacious desire for even a modicum of power.
    How on Earth could the LibDems ever believe the Tories would not turn out to be anything than their true, ruthless, selves?
    Clegg’s cohorts have served their function and now Cameron is wiping his boots on those who were never more than a doormat at his entrance to the gateway to power.

  • Dave Simons

    The fixed-term Parliaments legislation is not yet in place, contrary to what we’ve been told for nearly a year by the media. The Lords defeated one aspect of it in the last few days by confining it to this Parliament only. Cameron could call an election on the old system, which, unless I’m being misinformed from the House of Commons, still stands. It’s a pity the more sensible four-year proposal put forward recently by Labour was also defeated. Five-year terms are a sign of failed governments. The Chartists were asking for annual Parliaments in the 1840s to ensure that politicians carried out their election promises – not such a wild idea when you look at how quickly both sides of the Coalition broke theirs.

  • Gilliebc

    Good post OI. Statistics are certainly your forte.
    Your final paragraph puzzles me a little though. It appears to have been lifted straight from the conspiracy theorists’ “handbook” of the NWO/OWG’s things to do next, agenda. Even though last week you wrote that the only conspiracy theory you gave credence to (or words to that effect) was the one to do with the assassination of President Kennedy during the 1960’s. You’re an interesting character Olli, not nearly as old as I thought you might be. Finally, I like the way you seem to work i.e. never complain, never (fully) explain. Just like royalty! Not that I’m implying anything at all by that remark. It’s merely an observation on my part. No, I’m not expecting you to reply to my post. I know you don’t do interacting. Wise man.

  • ambrosian

    Cameron would have to be quick because the legislation has nearly completed its passage. It will soon go back to the Commons but there may be a bit of ‘ping-pong’ because the Government may well remove the ‘sunset clause’ you refer to. I can’t really see what this Lords amendment achieves because no Parliament can bind its successors and any new Government could simply repeal the fixed term Act and go back to the old system.

    The only merit I can see in annual elections is that the strain would probably finish off David Dimbleby.
    I would, however, like to see a maximum of two terms for a Prime Minister because they all go bonkers within eight years.

  • I think the point that is being missed amid all of this financial gloom and doom is the fact that the corporate sector (who are in bed with the banks and the political elite) are carrying out massive fraud to the tune of billions of pounds each and every year.

    Add to this the tax evasion and the movement of money from one country to another and we can clearly see that this becomes part and parcel of the economic meltdown.

    Wouldn’t you think that any political party would be interested in such fraud and to stop it so that our country can again prosper?

    Wouldn’t you think that the Serious Fraud Office would be interested in stopping this massive fraud?

    Sorry to tell you the answer to both questions is no!!….why you may ask?…..because many of them are at it and the fact that it is a major source of their pre election funds or as a donation to their respective parties.

    If we were serious about getting our country back into surplus we would attack this massive fraud head on but we don’t………if we recovered this money and the associated properties under the Proceeds of Crime Act we would be much better off.

    So my friends that is what lies behind our economic meltdown and no one does anything about it……….you can read all about this in my Pandora’s Box articles under the company fraud section……believe it or not!
    http://www.eyreinternational.com

  • Richard

    “… banks and the political elite) are carrying out massive fraud “…..
    Your statment of fact is astonishing. May we see the evidence?
    “….tax evasion and the movement of money ….” Popular theory. Evidence?
    “… Serious Fraud Office ………because many of them are at it ….” Evidence please.
    “…..massive fraud head on …..Proceeds of Crime Act we would be much better off.” ??????

    Having read your other website offerings, can you tell us what diet you are on? What an imagination.

    Tell us where Lord Lucan is, how  a London Bus got to the moon, and how you first proved that the world is flat.

    You are de man!

  • DM

    I’m really beginning to wonder how long it will be before the Lib Dems and Tories understand that Clegg is delusional and makes their coalition a vacuous laughing stock. He came third in the general election and yet somehow thought this gave him the right to shoot his mouth off and claim some sort of authority.  Then, just over a week ago he led his party to a major kicking and yet somehow decided this meant he had to be more vocal and forceful …and, errr… shoot his mouth off even more – presumably, using the logic of planet Clegg where opposites are true, if he’d done really well, he’d have shut up completely (somehow I think not).  Meanwhile, Paddy Pantsdown is wheeled out to try and ‘explain’ things to us simpletons like how broken pledges don’t equate to lies in Planet Clegg, and thereby retain some tiny fragment of credibility for that party.  Now the possible return of David Laws.  What about that idea of voters being able to recall their MPs?  Cleaning up Parliament?  Rubbish.  Parliament for the politicians, by the politicians.  All very unedifying. 

    While that shambles continues to play out, Cameron is busy on important matters like going for an ever more ridiculous Brezhnev or Kim Jong-il style bouffant in order to disguise the fact his hair is racing away from his beaming forehead towards that bald patch and Gideon is practicing his ‘nasty smell under’ the nose sneer.  As for doing things in the ‘national interest’ I guess they are all completely happy that their cunning plan means we are exactly smack bang where they planned for us to be after one year?  No, again I think not.  The much heralded private sector surge fails to launch despite Tory attempts to ignite it using a quango bonfire and all the heat (but little light) they could muster from an ongoing anti public sector narrative. 

    A few of us remember though that the last time the Tories came out with identical drivel it was just a thinly veiled cover for them driving vast sums of money into the pockets of their chums who were setting up schemes in sectors they went on to privatise.  Thatcher for instance made numerous speeches about the need to stop being a manufacturing economy and instead emphasizing how the nation should move to a financial services base.  Remember her saying we didn’t need so many apprentices – ah the irony that they’d now have us believe they are in fact champions of apprenticeships and manufacturing?  She also made a lot of noise about how industries which couldn’t financially support themselves deserved to fail.  As with so many things, she got that spectacularly wrong and if there’s any tiny saving grace, it’s the fact she and others like her live long enough to see her grand experiment die on its butt in 2008 when her beloved financial service sector imploded from its own greed and corruption.  Will we see sufficient recompense for the tax payers who kept the banks in a job rather than on an all new form of Thatcherite dole queue?  Will we see the necessary criminal investigations for serious fraud, false accounting and embezzlement?  No, I think not.   

    Sadly, that criminality crashed our economy too and while the Tories seem to think their lie that it was all Labour’s fault has taken hold, it just exposes them as being completely tribal, self serving and corrupt.  While the Tories have rushed to blame everything on the Labour and say only the ConDems can save us, they’ve actually done little to ensure the banks won’t again crash our economy.  In a world where enemies don’t need guns, so much for a Strategic Defence Review that ignores the threat of financial collapse.  They blame Labour for not regulating the banks which they themselves are not now regulating or criminally investigating.  Why?  Instead the Tories give tax breaks and more of our money to the same institutions for reasons the rest of us are apparently not allowed to know.   The big Tory lie is unable to explain what part Labour played in crashing the US economy or the sub-prime collapse, the Labour role in destroying Irelands economy, the Labour destruction of the Greek economy and presumably their part in the downfall of so many other economies. 

    Instead the Tories have tried to shift the focus to the public sector being the root of all evil, to millions of non jobs and fat cat salaries (err, non jobs apparently include soldiers, fighter pilots, sailors, police etc, but non jobs obviously don’t include those invaluable private sector banksters because the Tories and Lib Dems clearly seem to think we simply can’t have too many of them).  Strange though that in the time since the last election, the only public servants that seem to have unilaterally cut their work load and responsibilities with no recourse to their employers, are Tory and Lib Dem Ministers.  At a stroke they decided to absolve themselves from a whole slew of responsibilities while paying themselves the same amount of money (i.e. an effective pay rise – less work for the same money), yet we the tax payers were not consulted on this either before or after the election.  I always thought that when it came to responsibilities there was a clear difference between abdication and delegation, but …yes…again, I guess I must be wrong. 

    Still it seems the Tories in particular calculate that their actions are for our own good hence the dismissive, arrogant tone Cameron takes in ‘our’ Parliament where he clearly thinks it’s tiresome and demeaning for him to answer to the nation. Switching back briefly to the Lib Dems, they are obviously more than happy with this and the irony of the situation clearly doesn’t dawn on them as they must be terribly busy with other things such as all the intricacies of ministerial cars.  They’ve clearly forgotten in just 12 short months what it’s like to feel unrepresented and unheard when ordinary decent tax payers just have to remain silent and pay for the ‘excellent’ service Parliament provides and merely get a voice on just one day every four years. 

    Still, while it’s clear that Cameron is an accomplished conman, he is essentially spineless and his mask is slipping because even the media can’t disguise him being consistently found out when getting his ‘facts’ wrong.  He also repeatedly and effortlessly achieves mediocrity from a winning position, hence no clear majority in 2010 and he hasn’t the guts to go for an early election.  So much for being a progressive force in a new type of politics. I think not.
     
    Keep the posts coming Al.  And your right to ignore Laurie, he’s probably just trying to get his name noticed now that Neville-Jones is stepping down.

  • Dave Simons

     Thanks DM for that long spiel – I read and enjoyed every word of it!

  • Pam

    I read your rant and nearly lost the will to live.
    You sound just like Olli! 

  • Gayle Court

    Just been made redundant from the NHS along with 449 other members of staff in the hospital where I work.  How can this make sense for the economy?  450 people no longer paying income tax into the Treasury coffers, contribut ing to their local community and society, most of whom will end up applying for some kind of benefit to help them survive.  Everybody loses out.  The Treasury, society and individuals and families plunged into poverty.  Osborne’s strategy is crazy and you don’t need a PhD in Economics to understand that the sums just don’t add up.