Friday, 7 May 2010

A minority Cameron administration may not be a disaster

I've just seen Jeremy Vine on BBC-1 play with different models of coalition government. Neither of his most plausible speculations looks stable. Since the Conservatives have gained from both Liberal Democrats and Labour across England & Wales, and will clearly be the largest party at Westminster, they have earned the right to dictate the shape of the next government.

So, logically, David Cameron should lead a minority administration. There are precedents in Scotland, Wales, in local government and abroad. I think he will quickly gain support for an emergency economic package, because so much is ground held in common with the other parties, though without the immediate damaging cuts to front-line services. There is a big worry about Cameron's attitude to the EU which unfortunately is shared by too many leading Labour politicians, but indications from the market may give a reality check there.

But I am most hopeful on the social front. Labour and Lib Dem members could find themselves supporting Cameron against the more reactionary elements on his own back benches. The homosexual law reforms look safe, for instance. We may even find acceptance for a comprehensive overhaul of our system of criminal justice.  Now that the parties are no longer bound by electoral rhetoric, the prospect of cutting the prison population, both by early correction of offenders by more radical (in the UK, anyway) methods and by reducing the reoffending rates must appeal to Cameron.

There is also the prospect of a cooperative approach to social troubles at a local level, as proposed by Iain Duncan Smith. This chimes with some traditional Liberal thinking, and I would hope that Nick Clegg would support these ideas against the centralising tendency of Labour and even some Conservatives.

[Later: one would expect Cameron to make good his promises about civil liberties, including the abolition of the National Identity database, the NHS computer system and the third runway at London Heathrow, too]

There is still the big question of electoral reform. I concede that Cameron is unlikely to move towards a fairer voting system. Here he will be supported by most of his party and by most of Labour, too. But since Brown is offering only Alternative Vote, not a proportional system, I believe that the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party will have to be patient for a while longer, because the big prize is likely to be achievable when the next general election comes round.


Simon said...

Where in the party do youmsit with the orange bookers?

Frank H Little said...

Mark Oaten has proved to be a twit in his personal life, but his chapter in the Orange Book on prison reform and rehabilitation of offenders ("Tough Liberalism") is right, and something I hope is taken up in the Conservative/LD understanding. I have trouble with David Laws' desire for outsourcing and privatisation, and to some extent with Paul Marshall's enthusiasm for 19th-century liberalism.

Otherwise, there is little to disagree with in the contributions of Ed Davey, Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, Vince Cable, Susan Kramer, Steve Webb and Jo Holland.