Alex Massie

A Ten Year Deal

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A wise column by Martin Kettle in today's Guardian. Wise, of course, because he reaches a conclusion this blog arrived at some time ago:

Yet it is not too soon to insist that almost everything about this government so far, including today's programme, is intended to be about more than making the best of a bad job.

Everything now points, indeed, to this coalition being a serious historic attempt to realign the liberal centre-right in the electoral middle ground. Cameron and Clegg, in their own ways, now almost say as much. "The more I see of this coalition in action," Cameron said, "the more I see its potential, not just in solving the problems that lie before us but solving them with a shared set of values". Clegg went even further, seeming to claim that the coalition's compromises and differing traditions – he now routinely talks about the "blend" between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives – have made its programme even stronger than they would have been apart.

Make no mistake about this. Cameron and Clegg have suddenly become unexpected partners in a major political enterprise, not just to master the next five years of British politics but to reshape the party political map for a generation or more.

[...]Will it succeed? Much depends on the impact of the budget and the spending review. There may be coalition tears before bedtime. But, if not, there is an intriguing alternative. Four years down the line, if the economy is reviving and the liberal programme is secured, will the coalition partners run against each other in 2015, or will they be tempted to run for the coalition's re-election? An electoral pact to support one another under the alternative vote system would make a lot of sense. If that happens, then the May 2010 political realignment could last for a decade and more.

And that is precisely the point. I'm sure Cameron realises this too.

A word, incidentally, on the number of reviews and commissions that have been established. By some counts there are as many as thirty such pow-wows. This, on balance, is a good thing not only because it fudges areas of disagreement or parks matters that are problematic but not pressing but also because it prevents the government from trying to do everything at once. There's enough to be getting on with in terms of political reform, civil liberties and deficit reduction.

Besides, you need to save something for the second term...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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