Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Coalition Honeymoon

Political honeymoons are strange affairs of very diverse lengths. Tony Blair's lasted virtually his entire first term, and then some. Barack Obama's was pretty short before he was plunged into the maelstrom of finance and health reform. The new Cameron-Clegg coalition enjoyed a good press conference in the No. 10 garden, and must then have wondered where its honeymoon went as 'senior' Tory backbenchers (well, Chris Chope anyway) on one side, constitutional experts such as the admirable Professor Hennessy on the other, and rejected suitor Lord Adonis on yet another, all honed in on the proposed change to parliamentary dissolution arrangements. This is yet to be debated, and there is hopefuly room for manouevre, although the key element of the change - the removal of the Prime Minister's right of choice over election dates - is to be welcomed. It is the 55% requirement in the Commons for a dissolution of a government to occur that is causing headaches. The angst over 55% may be over-stated, at least in terms of praticalities. The last time a vote of no confidence succeeded was 1979, where Margaret Thatcher famously forced Callaghan to call an election as a result of a one vote majority in the Commons. But Callaghan was pretty well at the end of Labour's term anyway, and would have had to have an election by the end of the year in any case. Before that vote, you'd have to go back to the 1924 vote against the minority Conservative government, which was passed by well over 55% of MPs.

There is, incidentally, some honeymoon joy for the coalition - although it is mixed. UK Polling Report indicates a 60% approval for the new government. Alas, 28% think it will last less than a year!

3 comments:

consultant said...

One very obvious but telling difference between the Blair honeymoon and the Obama honeymoon is the economic climate in which they took place. Blair had an exceptionally benign economic ride in his first term whilst Obama had about as much the opposite of that is as possible. Little surprise then that the electorate stayed happier with the suitor who had the money to shower them with gifts for much longer.

I think another difference though is that Blair didn't really know what to do with his huge majority. In a term when he could have basically passed any law he liked he ducked some of the chances to make the kind of fundamental changes that can easily upset the voters. Obama - with healthcare - had no such reluctance, and leapt head-long into the hornets' nest of much-needed by hugely contentious reform.

What then for the coalition? In a paragraph I barely need type given the stunning apparence of the conclusion, I would say the outlook is not good. The economic situation is dire and the onus will be on the incoming government to immediately start making the "tough choices" (savage cuts) that the markets demand. To be fair they do not appear to be shrinking from this task, but one gets the impression that the electorate will be at the airport tearfully booking early flights home before they've finished the second candle-lit dinner on the beach.

GM said...

Agree with your second paragraph absolutely, which is what makes Obama such a brilliant leader. Jury's out on the third!

Anonymous said...

Quick comment, 55% isnt a 'vote of no confidence' its a vote to dissolve parliament.

I imagine, that if this parliament is to fall, it will be from a vote of no confidence, followed by a vote of dissolution. If a vote of no confidence is won, then a vote of dissolution is a natural progression (as the cabinet cannot appear to the country that they are 'clinging' onto power).

For that reason, i have no trouble with the changes. Just id rather it was 4 year terms, not 5 years. Only unpopular governments last 5 years.