If you want an indication of just how unpopular the coalition will be, read this morning’s Guardian. Splashed across the front page is an unemployment forecast from the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development. The predicted figure touches 3 million – a psychologically shocking and politically important number, allowing the opposition to chant: ‘Thatcher’s cuts’, which remains a call to arms in parts of the country.
The bulk of unemployment will follow the necessary squeeze on public sector jobs and pay. The CIPB estimate that 750,000 public sector jobs will go. The size of the dole welfare bill is unknown because the government plans wholesale welfare reform. This government’s battle will be with the public sector trade unions. TUC leader Brendan Barber is quoted threatening disruption to protect his members. It must make grim reading for Cameron and Clegg before they set off for the school run.
Elsewhere, the Guardian tries to divide the coalition over tuition fees. It carries a headline: Willetts hints that university students will face higher fees. The Liberal Democrats remain opposed to tuition fees. Whilst tuition fees may have to rise, Willetts does not hint that they will definitely rise. He will wait for the publication of the Brown report. In the meantime, he wants universities to innovate and provide cheap and effective undergraduate tuition. Throughout the difficult task of cutting, opponents will be probe the coalition for weakness on every aspect of policy.