“Do you think the Coalition government is or is not …?”
Next up on the Catch-Up Service, the coalition. When I went away at the end of July, I assumed that some compromise would be found on House of Lords reform and that most of the Liberal Democrats would vote for Christmas, by which I mean the new constituency boundaries.
Just goes to show how naive we politics-watchers can be, and how, sometimes, we get so close to our subjects that we do not notice what they are saying.
I should have adopted a strict Namierite approach and judged it by interest. Although that is complicated because it was in the interest of the Conservative Party to have delivered Lords reform in return for new boundaries, which would have given it between 14 and 21 extra seats. The calculations were upset by a large number of Tory MPs having a sudden attack of principle.
The Namierite analysis applied to boundaries. The new boundaries are against the interest of Liberal Democrats. Even Nick Clegg’s own seat becomes a Labour winnable. And there are, as Sam Coates of The Times estimates, around 25 Tory MPs who would vote against them.
I should not have been surprised that David Cameron concluded that he could not rescue anything from the wreckage of Lords reform. Nor should Clegg, who was told by Labour’s Margaret Jay in the early days of the coalition that a mostly elected upper house could not be done.
And I should have seen Clegg’s statement of 6 August coming. That was the one in which he said:
I have told the Prime Minister that when Parliament votes on boundary changes for the 2015 election Liberal Democrats in Parliament will oppose them.
This has made life more difficult for the coalition, although, as Paul Goodman points out, Cameron is still likely to want to re-form it after the next election.
David Cowling, head of the BBC’s Political Research Unit, draws attention in an internal paper to some important findings on attitudes to the coalition from Ipsos-MORI last month:
Do you think the Coalition government is or is not….?
able to react quickly in a crisis (May ‘10, Apr ‘11, Jul ‘12)
Is ___56% 53% 34%
Is not 34% 38% 55%
providing stable government
Is ___55% 53% 39%
Is not 34% 40% 54%
dealing with the economic crisis effectively
Is ___59% 42% 28%
Is not 33% 49% 63%
working as a united team
Is ___63% 43% 26%
Is not 29% 49% 66%
What is notable is that, while views of the coalition held up well enough in the first year, they have turned bad. As Cowling comments, Lib Dem attempts to rewrite the rules on how government disunity is seen in a coalition are unlikely to succeed:
I suspect that this mantra of “new views for new circumstances” has more resonance in university lecture halls than among voters: one person’s developing new model of consensual governance is another person’s bunch of ferrets fighting in a sack.
Which brings me to Janan Ganesh’s latest column for the Financial Times. Ganesh, who is working on a biography of George Osborne and who was a writer for The Economist, suggests that Ed Miliband should worry more about the next election than the conventional wisdom holds.
I suspect that ought to be true, given the thinness of Labour’s alternative, but am not convinced that it is. It looks to me as if both the Tories and the Lib Dems are in serious trouble.Tagged in: coalition, opinion polls
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