Peter Hoskin

The coalition’s summer challenge

The coalition's summer challenge
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How striking that, as another Parliamentary term draws to a close, all the talk is of some sort of union between the Tories and the Lib Dems.  There was Mark Field's blog post about an electoral pact, yesterday, of course.  But now Rachel Sylvester follows it up with an article in the Times outlining a possible "metrosexual merger" between the two parties.  And Paul Goodman has a piece in the Telegraph suggesting that such a merger may well be in the offing.

In many repsects, all this chatter is testament to the early success of the coalition.  What we have seen over the past few months has, on the whole, been responsible and surefooted government by a group of people who seem to get on personally as well as politically.  It is this, not the spending cuts, which has drawn perhaps the thickest dividing line with the New Labour years.  Civil servants who have experienced both regimes at first hand tend to purr about the current set-up.  And so the thinking goes: why not make it more permanent?

But, flattering or not, Cameron and Clegg will still need to be wary of this latest round of merger speculation.  As David Miliband demonstrated a couple of years ago, the political vacuum of the summer recess can be filled quite easily by internal party intrigue and disgruntlement – and when it comes to the Lib Dem left, and the Tory right, there is (rightly or wrongly) quite a lot of disgruntlement to go around.  The danger is not just that this bursts the government's honeymoon bubble, but that – given the precarious nature of any coalition – it could snowball into a major threat to the government itself.

Plenty of ifs, buts and maybes in all this coalition speculation.  But in between their state duties, their constituency work and their summer reading, Cameron and Clegg would be well advised to keep communicating with their backbenchers over the sweaty few months ahead.