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Coalition – what coalition?

5 September, 2012

Author: Warren Town

Question mark

With the cabinet reshuffle we have to ask ourselves why – when the major changes to Ministerial portfolios are to introduce light-weight, right-wing Tory idealists and do nothing to the liberal partners?

Is this a coalition in transition or crisis?

Probably a bit of both and despite public statements from the Prime Minister and his deputy, there is scepticism about how long this coalition will last as we move towards the next election.

The mandate for the creation of the coalition has all but run its course and looking back you have to wonder what, if anything, the Liberal Democrats have achieved by aligning themselves with the Tories apart from ‘power sharing’ and a seat of the table.

The Lib-Dems key policy objectives of proportional representation for election of Ministers, reform of the House of Lords and a raft of other minor but still important objectives for the Liberals have, at best, been considered but not necessarily achieved.

In the beginning, John Prescott – the outgoing deputy leader – was asked ‘what role is there for a deputy in government?’ He responded: “Well, you make the tea.” At the time this was considered flippant but, over time, we have to wonder how true a comment made in jest.

With a country still in recession and continued rhetoric from the coalition that we must make savings and cut expenditure, even when the response from economists and political commentators is ‘not without investment you won’t, there is still a dearth of evidence of change for the good.

Food and fuel costs continue to rise and wages are still depressed, the public sector is still in a state of flux and private investment no longer evident, despite some pump priming from Government.

The autumn will see changes in education and health that will fundamentally alter the delivery and structure of public services against a background of a consolidated right wing agenda to promote private investment at the expense of public sector jobs and services.

We are due to receive the initial response from the NHS Pay Review Body on the Government initiative to introduce regional/local pay in England and Wales. Questions are already being asked about this policy and even the historical evidence supports the argument that regional pay is divisive and not cost effective.

The alternative is local pay but, even in the private sector, this is only an option for specific skills and under very strict conditions. You have to wonder if this will be yet another policy for the ‘too difficult to do box' and the only guidance from central Government will be silence.

We are some three years away from an election and this reshuffle is clearly designed to stamp the right wing agenda on future policy.

The question is not what will the Lib Dems make of this – as it appears they have little choice but agree – but where and who is the opposition?

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