19 August, 2010

100 days

The coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg seems to be scoring fairly well with the newspapers at the 100 days mark.

For me I am not so sure. Firstly, of course, I don’t think we should have had it in the first place. Cameron should have run a minority government and called another election when continuation became impracticable, which would have been less soon than you might think, given the fact that the Liberals were not popular and the Labour Party had no money for another campaign. As it is, the policies were decided after we had voted, so if, like me, you reluctantly supported the Conservatives on the grounds that they were pledged to repatriate powers from Brussels and that they would have nothing to do with changing the voting system, you have been cheated.

I don’t like 100 days as a point for the analysis, either. It is not enough time to analyse policies, much less the effect of those policies. All you can do at the 100 day mark his analyse the direction of travel, as it is called these days.

One must give Cameron and Clegg full marks for activity. This, I think, is generated by Cameron, who, in the closing stages of the election, brought out a policy a week (sometimes it seemed like a policy every fifteen minutes). The result is movement on a wide range of fronts, in the Home Office, local government, schools and higher education, and the hint of changes at defence and foreign policy. Much of this has been good, some tepid.

One disappointing aspect seems to be Cameron’s lack of backbone. He must be bright enough to see the sheer idiocy of the state providing milk in schools and of providing bus passes to the well off. He has simply avoided short term unpopularity using our money.

The deficit is of course the main preoccupation of the government and, after some good publicity work, of the country. Here we must regretfully report that even the plans – and we don’t know how much spineless backing down Cameron is going to do when the whingeing starts – even the plans do not provide for the elimination of the deficit in the proposed five year term: not one penny of the bloated national debt will be paid off, indeed it will increase.

So, for me, 5 or 6 out of ten. The question people will now ask is how long this administration can survive. Not being used to coalitions in Britain we may have forgotten that the seeds of destruction are sown internally. The arguments are blue on blue (and yellow on yellow): it has been remarked that if a Conservative minister makes a blunder he is slapped down publically, whereas if a LibDem made the same blunder there would be policy meetings to resolve the issue. The backbench Tories are concerned, as am I, about the lack of movement on Europe, the wishy washy support for the armed forces, the lack of muscle on the deficit and proposed referendum on AV. The LibDems are mumbling that they didn’t come into politics to see benefits cut.

In truth, British political parties are themselves coalitions, broad churches where the right can combine uneasily with the left, the eurosceptic with the europhile. If coalition is to become entrenched in our national life there is no reason why the Tories and LibDems shouldn’t split into at least two parties each. I am not convinced this would necessarily be a good thing either for the parties or for our democracy.

So how long will it last? I am less pessimistic than some. I believe there will be difficulties at the Comprehensive Spending Review in September but they will stumble through. I think, though, that after four years if the Tories are further ahead, and I believe they will be, or the LibDems suffering in the polls, it will be time for the amicable separation. I for one hope that this particular couple never gets back together again.

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