The Coalition’s first full political cabinet marks a stage in its development. The fact that Tories and Liberal Democrats were prepared to sit down with no officials present and discuss political strategy for more than three hours shows how comfortable the Coalition partners are becoming with each other at Cabinet level.
As I say in the Mail on Sunday, the tone of these talks was, for obvious reasons, distinctly anti-Labour. Much of it was about the importance of branding Labour as in denial about the deficit.
The challenge that Labour poses to the Coalition will, obviously, depend heavily on the result of the party’s leadership election. The two Miliband brothers—who are also the two serious contenders—pose very different threats to the Coalition’s vulnerable party, the Lib Dems. Ed Miliband would probably be more effective at attacking them in the short term. His allies say that he would try and shame their left-wing supporters into abandoning them.
But in the medium to long term, I suspect David would be the greater threat. As a less tribal politician, he would be more able to speak in terms that would resonate with disaffected Liberal Democrats.
Over the summer, the Coalition will have to devote considerable energy to working out how to protect the Lib Dems against the onslaught that is coming from the new Labour leader. Any further erosion in the Lib Dem poll rating could well destabilise the government.