What if the Coalition succeeds?

In June 2009 Nick Cohen scared us into thinking that:

the shattered Brown administration, whose manifest failings could destroy Labour’s chances of winning another election – maybe forever, if the Liberal Democrats and Greens take over what remains of the centre-left.

Luckily enough the Liberal Democrats and the Greens did not take over what remains on the centre-left, instead the Liberal Democrats stepped into the home of the centre-right.

Some people have pointed out that this coalition might be good for the left; that the social democrat vote will no longer be split between MPs of two parties who claim to sometimes wear that badge and that the left therefore can reposition itself and expose a coalition of its cracks while being ready to pounce in time for the next election, which will inevitably be in a year a two.

Although the worst, and least considered, outcome that could happen is probably the most likely; that the coalition is durable and goes on to remain the set up until 2015.

John McDonnell, on the Radio 4 programme Any Questions? has said that overall the coalition will do both parties involved some good; for the Tories, he argues, it should keep at bay the right wing, for the Liberal Democrats, it should keep at bay the left wing. A sensible case that rings quite true.

Coalition compromises are being made to appease left, right and centre. And look at the agreed negotiations on civil liberties for example. Though it’s part of an oppositions’ political duty to exploit the cracks in the incumbent (something the Labour party has the privilege of engaging in again after 13 years), the most pressing issue to address is what to do if, when a so-called “orange booker” meets a compassionate conservative, they actually meet head on.

Of course there will be cracks, and this has no more been shown in the last week by the tense relationship between George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Vince Cable, the Business Secretary. On the same day as the Clegg/Cameron press release Vince Cable was awaiting confirmation of the equal patch he will have with George Osborne as chair of the committee in charge of banks, only to find that those were not the plans at all.

Osborne’s sources were quick to brush the incident aside by saying there had been some confusion on the matter, but it is clear why Osborne would want to keep Cable at arms length from controlling reform of banking. Our new Chancellor finds some of Cable’s tough plans for banks dubious, such as his measures to encourage banks to lend more.

In spite of crucial differences in the week Cable has not kicked up a fuss, in fact, as Will Hutton points out in, he has gracefully accepted now his role as deputy of the key cabinet sub-committee and has agreed to jointly chair the commission in charge of decisions on how banks should be broken up as well as overseeing bank competition, consumer protection and the lending targets.

Addressing the class similarities Nick Cohen last week in the Observer has stated of the coalition that:

Far from adding grit to an administration dominated by the children of the rich, [the Liberal Democrats have] toffed it up and raised the average cabinet member’s net worth by tens of thousands of pounds.

It is what Cohen identifies here which will be the real challenge for the left; countering the unrepresentative make-up of the government as it is today, and the similarities of the coalition, not the differences. For this reason the left should hold back basing their attack on the coalition as one which is destined to fail, one where the differences are too drastic, just in case this is totally, and worryingly, misjudged.


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