Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Question of Survival for the Coalition

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Question of Survival for the Coalition

Article excerpt


WHEN future historians come to assess the political events of 2010, two big counterfactual questions are likely to loom large in their minds.

They are: what if Labour had ditched Gordon Brown before the general election and what if the Liberal Democrats had refused to go into coalition with David Cameron's Conservatives? The second question is probably the easier one to answer. Mr Cameron would have formed a minority government, David and not Ed Miliband would have become Labour leader, and both would now be gearing up for a fresh election in the spring.

But the more tantalising question is whether Mr Cameron might ever have become prime minister at all had Labour gone into the election under a more popular leader.

The political year 2010 began with Mr Brown's survival once again hanging in the balance. Former Labour ministers Geoff Hoon and remained largely unconvinced by Mr Cameron and his team, and the eventual result saw the Tories falling some 20 seats short of outright victor y. Days of frantic bargaining followed, but with the parliamentary maths in favour of a Lib-Lab deal failing to stack up, it was always likely that a Lib-Con coalition would be the outcome.

Faced with the task of finding a successor to Mr Brown, Labour managed to saddle itself with the lesser-known of the Miliband brothers, courtesy of a crazy electoral system which gave the unions the decisive say.

For David Miliband, brother Ed's leadership election victory came as a bitter blow and the South Shields MP stood down from his party's front bench.

Then, in one of his first acts as leader, Ed sacked former Minister for the North East Nick Brown from his shadow cabinet team, leaving the region somewhat leaderless in Whitehall. Indeed, with the new Coalition busily taking the axe to every regional institution in sight, the North East seemed in danger of losing its political voice altogether. …

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