Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Not a Cosy Time for the Coalition

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Not a Cosy Time for the Coalition

Article excerpt


AT the beginning of this year, I wrote that if the Coalition government survived 2011, it would in all likelihood achieve its original objective of serving out a full five-year Parliamentary term.

What I was trying to say was not so much that it will all be plain sailing from January 1, 2012 onwards, but that if there was a point of maximum danger for the Cameron-Clegg government, it will come this year rather than any other.

The past few weeks seem to have proved the point, as tensions have erupted between the Coalition partners over a series of issues ranging from the NHS to immigration.

A year on from the opening TV debate between the party leaders which shaped the 2010 election campaign, serious commentators have started to pose the question whether another election might not be so very far off. Last week I focused on the health reforms, and the ongoing Lib Dem-inspired backlash against health secretary Andrew Lansley's plan to hand control of the NHS budget to GPs.

Although they refrained from saying as much, the Lib Dems will doubtless have been privately rubbing their hands with glee at Mr Lansley's humiliation at the hands of Royal College of Nursing conference on Wednesday.

The yellows showed no such restraint however when Chancellor George Osborne suddenly enlivened what has thus far been a sleep-inducing campaign on whether to change the voting system. Mr Osborne criticised the role of the Electoral Reform Society in simultaneously receiving taxpayers' money to run some of the referendum ballots and helping to fund the Yes campaign, saying: "That stinks frankly."

The comments earned the Chancellor a rebuke from his own Lib Dem deputy, chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander, who accused his departmental boss of "pretty desperate scaremongering".

It showed that, although the two sides have agreed to disagree on the subject of voting reform, it is very hard to have a civilised disagreement when the whole future of how we conduct our politics is at stake. …

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