The events of this week tested the Liberal/Conservative coalition to its limit. Conservative politicians engineered an embarrassing defeat of their own Deputy Leader, Nick Clegg, and his poorly formulated Lords reform policy. Coalition government, this week, justified its existence.
Coalition government’s most useful function is that of limiting political change, or, to use technical jargon, its perpetuation of ‘policy stability’. Coalition government is valuable precisely because, and not in spite of, the fact that it makes strong government and radical change difficult. The UK’s electoral system, after all, delivers laughably disproportionate representation to the British people. It is bad enough, in UK politics, that any party with a parliamentary majority is boss. It would be far worse if a party unable to achieve even that skewed result were able to do the same. And so coalition is essential to the democratic life of this country.
Recently, Michael Gove’s bizarre and backward attempts to reintroduce the O-Level were shelved due to Liberal Democrat opposition. And this week, Nick Clegg’s House of Lords disaster was thankfully crushed by a backbench Tory rebellion. This shows coalition government functioning healthily. Coalition government works, if you like, when it isn’t working.
There’s an extent to which this is a particularly good time for coalition politics. In a time of economic crisis, sorting out the economy should not be left entirely in the hands of a group of wealthy right-wingers bent on hacking at the precarious cliff edge on which stand the economically unfortunate and unlucky of this country. In step the Liberal Democrats, wealthy moderates desperate to pretend that, really, they’re just like poor people. A balance of a sort comes to pass. From the tension and chaos of coalition government springs a precarious middle ground.
I support coalition government wholeheartedly. Under this government, a great deal of damage has been done to the public service providers on which the majority of this country depends: the NHS, teachers and the police, for instance. Imagine how much worse the damage done so far could have been had David, Gideon and co. not had the Liberal Democrats hanging around their necks like the glorious dead weight that they are. With no real mandate from the people, the Conservatives have found themselves rightfully frustrated by their coalition partners in their attempts to change this country beyond recognition. The majority of the country should be grateful for the two parties’ arrangement, in all its broken, bitchy beauty. Long may it last.
PHOTO/The Prime Minister’s Office