Wednesday, 13 June 2012


Talk of "treachery" over the decision of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party not to defend Jeremy Hunt in today's Commons vote smacks of playground politics. "Nicky's saying nasty things Dave's friend Jerry so he must be in Eddy's gang".

BBC political correspondents are now suggesting that Tory backbenchers will block House of Lords reform in retaliation. To the argument that Lords reform was in the coalition agreement and personal defence of individual ministers was not, they would retort that the coalition only promised a committee, which pledge has been redeemed. The fact that all the party manifestos promised reform of the unelected chamber has passed them by.

Jo Swinson has it right:

I am a reluctant convert to supporting the coalition. Originally, I thought it would be feasible to allow a minority Conservative administration to govern on a "care and maintenance" basis, supporting or opposing them issue by issue. Two factors caused me to change my mind: the punishment meted out by the financial markets to countries whose governments seemed weak, obviously Greece but more appositely Italy; and the strong probability that the Conservatives would engineer a dissolution of parliament over a deficit reduction programme more stringent than the coalition has agreed, to gain an overall majority at the ensuing general election which they could afford to throw money at. (I would like to think that Britain's standing counted for more than grubby party political considerations.)

As it happened, the major silliness of the AV referendum apart, the parties reached a mature and sensible coalition agreement, one which conceded more to the LibDem manifesto than to the Conservative one. This has not been to the liking of more extreme Tories, of whom Nadine Dorries is the most outspoken, but even some Liberal Democrats feel we have given up too much.

There have been calls for more public differentiation by members of both parties. It is clearly essential for the future of the Liberal Democrats that we do this, but we must pick our ground carefully. The application of the ministerial code is a matter where we can clearly state our principles and I welcome the stand that our MPs are taking.

The Conservatives, too, need to set their stall out, threatened as they are on their "little England" wing by UKIP. But they should not go too far. John Redwood, who many might expect to be impatient to move his party to the "right", counselled his more gung-ho colleagues otherwise after the local elections:

No comments: