An Inconvenient Marriage

31st January, 2013 11:14 am

This week has not been – as the Lib Dem Press Office cringingly likes to put it – Coalicious. The Tories got what they deserved for lacking the discipline to pass promised Lords Reform. But from the way they were speaking of their coalition partners it is clear that a line has not been – and will not quickly be – drawn under this one. Indeed it’s going to run and run. And already we can see the flash points gathering on the horizon.

Firstly, let’s be clear that it’s not just the Lib Dems the Tories are angry with. Despite the convulsions of joy he gave them last week with his in/out/in-a-little-while pledge on Europe, there is a large proportion of the Tory backbench who loathe Cameron. They blame him for failing to win an election while conversely blaming him for not being right wing enough. He is also arrogant and has neglected to build the alliance he needs outside of his own very tight, very privileged circle.

Despite positive feelings around Cameron coming off the Eurofence (or at least promising to probably do so in 5 years time), there is still plenty that Tory MPs are unhappy about and some of the issues put them in direct opposition to the Lib Dems.

Today’s issue is mooted defence cuts. Yesterday morning the FT ran a piece containing very strong language from some Tory MPs against further cuts, but by yesterday lunchtime the Government were indicating they were considering precisely that, despite general levels of uncertainty around the development of our role in Mali. Today confusion reigns – which is hardly the way to calm a crisis. Cameron either needs to get tough with his backbenchers or give in to them – but neither course will now quiet them.

The Tory backbenches think more can be squeezed from the welfare budget to protect defence spending. Nick Clegg believes that he has a promise from Osborne that this will now be protected until 2015. The Tories didn’t get the response they were hoping for from the public after their last attack on welfare and there are signs that even they are beginning to understand how their rhetoric is re-toxifying their Party. Those backbenchers seeking this are unlikely to get their way – something Tory backbenchers have shown little ability to swallow with dignity.

Next week will be the next really big fight. Not just between coalition Parties, but between wings of the Tory Party. While – extremely regrettably – some members of Labour and the Lib Dems will be voting against equal marriage, it won’t be in anything like the numbers of expected Tory rebels. If Nick Herbert MP is right around 150 Tory MPs (half their Parliamentary Party) will rebel. When Labour had a rebellion approaching that size, it was on the issue of sending troops to the massively misguided misadventure in Iraq, for the Tory backbenchers it’s about whether two people who love each other and happen to be of the same sex should have the same rights as straight couples have enjoyed for millennia.

Somehow I don’t think the Tory united front is going to last very long.

What about the Coalition? Will they lick their wounds and come back united? Several issues on the horizon say that they won’t. Tax breaks for married couples are back on the agenda and may well appear in the Spring Budget. The Coalition agreement allows Lib Dems to abstain on this issue. Will they? Although allowed to by the agreement, they didn’t abstain over Tuition Fees, but that has cost them dearly. Unless Nick Clegg can wring something pretty dramatic out of Osborne for this year’s budget (and so far Osborne has been pretty adept at fending off the Lib Dem demands) then this may well see a mass hand-sitting from the Lib Dems – accompanied by further vitriol from their Partners in Coalition.

We’re a long way from the Rose Garden. The Government is faced inwards and fighting itself in numerous directions. This is an opportunity for Labour and we mustn’t squander it. A divided Government does not mean an automatic loss. But it does mean that the Government’s focus on the issues that matter – the economy, life chances and the cost of living to name but three – is anything but laser-like. Now is the time that ours must be. We can’t rely on the unattractiveness of this shower alone, but we can exploit the opportunity it presents us. That must be Labour’s key task in 2013.

Latest

  • News Miliband more trusted on the NHS than David Cameron, poll finds

    Miliband more trusted on the NHS than David Cameron, poll finds

    Last week was Labour’s NHS week; it looks like their clear, constant message on has paid off – their lead on health has doubled since February. This is according to polling ComRes polling for Incisive Health, which suggests that Labour have built on their NHS lead in recent months. Incisive Health’s tracker of the ComRes polling shows the ratings for the Tories have stayed relatively stable while Labour’s have increased. The good news isn’t just for the party overall, though. When […]

    Read more →
  • Video England and Liverpool Striker Raheem Sterling records video backing Labour’s Dawn Butler

    England and Liverpool Striker Raheem Sterling records video backing Labour’s Dawn Butler

    He may not be staying at Liverpool much longer – but England and Liverpool attacker Raheem Sterling is definitely a committed Red. Here’s a video of Sterling backing Dawn Butler – who was Sterling’s MP in Brent when he lived there as a kid: Sterling says “Hiya, I’m Raheem Sterling, and I’d just like to say a big thank you to Dawn for helping me and my family when we lived in Brent and she’s been a massive help to […]

    Read more →
  • Scotland Video Scottish Labour release party election broadcast “unlock change”

    Scottish Labour release party election broadcast “unlock change”

    Scottish Labour have released a party election broadcast – entitled “unlock change” as the campaign reaches its final days. The polling situation looks bleak for Labour in Scotland – but there’s no mention of the SNP in this largely upbeat effort, complete with voiceover from David Tennant:

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: campaigning, housing and the best pledge

    Weekly Survey: campaigning, housing and the best pledge

    The general election is almost upon us. But there’s still plenty of time to get out and do some door knocking. We want to know how many of you will be out and about campaigning before May 7th. Let us know here. Labour have just unveiled their sixth and final pledge: it’s on housing. It reads as follows: ‘Homes to buy and acton on rents’. Translated into policy terms, this means Labour would begin the “biggest house building programme for […]

    Read more →
  • Comment The next Mayor of London should set a minimum target for affordable homes

    The next Mayor of London should set a minimum target for affordable homes

    The Old Post Office site in Harrow in the heart of my constituency will not be well known to many LabourList readers, yet the debate about its future encapsulates the challenge about how to secure more affordable housing in our city. This development in the centre of Harrow is set to see very few affordable homes out of a planned 300-plus flats. Quite apart from the wider planning and design issues, the lack of a significant proportion of these homes […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit