We have had much occasion to reflect, recently, on Disraeli’s dictum that Britain ‘does not love coalitions’. It’s now becoming depressingly clear that coalitions don’t much love Britain either. What started off as functional coalition government has descended into the most appalling policy blackmail which I looked at in my Daily Telegraph column yesterday. I said that granting ‘minority’ status to the Cornish was the result of such a horse-trade. We’ve had more examples today. The Daily Mail has stood up the fact that the Cornish move was in return for Clegg approving a £600 million reform of Town Hall pensions. The Times leader joins this theme, saying the horse trading is ‘an example of how not to govern‘. But it’s an example of what our government has now become.
In Dominic Cummings’ incendiary blog, he reveals that Nick Clegg’s ‘universal free school meals’ policy was demanded in exchange for his not vetoing Cameron’s £700 million marriage tax break Given that 1,700 schools don’t even have kitchens, it’s a bad policy already bringing chaos to smaller schools. It could only have been produced by the horsetrading system that now exists where proper government used to be. Cummings is acting as whistleblower, a pursuit that this coalition has moved to protect. Which makes it all the more amusing that Clegg now wants him arrested.
How, you might ask, did the Lib Dems come to have a veto over anything? The answer lies in something called the Home Affairs Committee in cabinet. Clegg chairs this committee, and uses it as a device to veto policies that the Tories are keen on. ‘He then banks it,’ a Cabinet member explained to me, ‘and then uses it barter in the Quad. That’s where the horse-trading takes place. None of us know what goes on there.’
The ‘Quad’ is David Cameron, George Osborne and their respective LibDem deputies: Clegg and Danny Alexander.