Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cam Will Still Be the Man If Ed Can't Get His Act Together; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cam Will Still Be the Man If Ed Can't Get His Act Together; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Linford

EVER since the formation of the coalition between David Cameron's Conservatives and Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats in the aftermath of the May 2010 general election, British politics has by and large been dominated by two interrelated questions.

The first was whether, in spite of the obvious chemistry between the two leaders, an alliance between two parties with such vastly differing world views could actually come close to achieving its stated aim of governing for a full five-year parliament.

The second was whether the tough economic measures it adopted would succeed in tackling the deficit, as the Tories had argued during the election campaign, or merely succeed in choking-off an incipient recovery, as Labour had warned.

Eighteen months on, those questions remain unanswered, but as 2011 draws to a close, we are at least a little closer to knowing.

On the first point, I wrote at the start of the year that if the coalition managed to get through 2011, it would in all likelihood survive until its target date of 2015.

In making that prediction - which I may well be forced to revise over the coming 12 months - I was looking to May's referendum on reform of the voting system as the likeliest breaking point between the two partners.

As it turned out, the Lib Dems' crushing defeat in the referendum did not prove the coalition-breaker some of us thought it might, despite Mr Cameron having apparently given his party the green light to launch some bitter personal attacks on Mr Clegg.

Late in the year another issue emerged which on the face of it now seems much more likely to prevent the coalition going the course - Europe.

Mr Cameron's self-imposed isolation at this month's European Summit capped what on the face of it was not a great year for the Prime Minister. He found himself forced into a series of policy U-turns over privatising forests, reducing prison sentences for defendants who plead guilty and most notably over the ill-judged attempt to impose competition on the National Health Service. Meanwhile, the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World threw the spotlight on Mr Cameron's close personal links with the Murdoch empire and the travails of his Defence Secretary Liam Fox forced him into his first reshuffle. …

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