I’ve been waiting before writing a piece on the Coalition Government so that I can really nail down what I feel about it. This is not a strategic post on the electoral pitfalls and opportunities presented by the Coalition – I’m sure one will be along soon. This is, instead, a gut feeling thing on my reaction to it.
I will certainly admit that, like David Cameron, I have not always been flattering about the Liberal Democrats – seeing them as perpetually cleaved by internal contradictions and a little bit irrelevant on the national political scene. Well, all things change with time.
I am, as even a fairly cursory glimpse through this blog would show, basically a Cameroonie Conservative – at least I think I am. It’s not always easy to determine the true political nature of any Leader of the Opposition – action is always easier to parse than words. What I am then is an economically dry, socially wet Tory. A Classical liberal, in fact. Why am I a Conservative then? After all, an authoritarian centralising streak runs through recent Conservative history, from Section 28 to the Thatcherite evisceration of local Government. Well, I would say that it is because the alternatives are so much worse. Labour is the party of 90 days detention, of ID cards, of DNA retention, of fingerprinting schoolchildren, of mass databases, of the restriction of jury trials, of the abolition of double jeopardy, of RIPA and of arresting people for reading out names of the fallen at the Cenotaph. They are, to be polite about it, not fit to be trusted in Government.
And the Liberal Democrats? Well, they have a fine tradition of standing up for civil liberties – up to a point. The Social Democratic wing of the Lib Dems has a nasty habit of replicating Labour’s belief that Government is the answer to every problem. The Orange Bookers I have no problem with – a party that marries social liberalism with free-market economic liberalism is right up my street – but I have never felt that they were a driving force in their own party. Vote David Laws, get Simon Hughes: that was always my concern.
So, on that basis a coalition that brings the Orange Bookers into Government – Laws, Clegg and Huhne (ghastly on other levels…) – while trapping the most prominent SDP-ite Cable into a job that pretty much rules out off-piste grandstanding is pretty much ideal. All the more so as those Tory voices on the authoritarian side – the Cornerstone wing – will be as marginalised as the Hughesite SDPers. Win-win.
We’ll see how successful this Coalition Government will turn out to be. But if it’s all to be predicated on the gut reaction of Tory voters, I suspect it will do better than many think. Count me in as a fan for one.