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

  • Comment The truth is that South Thanet should never have been blue – let alone in danger of turning purple

    The truth is that South Thanet should never have been blue – let alone in danger of turning purple

    There’s a lot of interest in the exact Dulux colour composition of Farage’s purple peril. We’ve already had the Ribena test, and this week a City AM piece sought to disentangle ‘red Ukip’ from ‘blue Ukip’ – the Labour component of Nigel Farage’s appeal from the Tory one. The latter article, probably unsurprisingly, concluded that red Ukip was mainly a northern phenomenon and blue Ukip predominantly southern. South Thanet, the Kent seat where I’m standing against Nigel Farage, seems at […]

    Read more →
  • Comment I hate Labour’s immigration mug – but I hate their immigration pledge even more

    I hate Labour’s immigration mug – but I hate their immigration pledge even more

    Yesterday the Labour Party put a dent in the good week they’ve been having by putting on sale a mug stamped with Labour’s promise to put “controls on immigration”.  The was rightly criticised across Twitter; some said it was pandering to Ukip while others seemed to be in disbelief that the party would even produce a piece of merchandise. However, the mug is one of a family of five, each of which are branded with one of Labour’s election pledges. In response to […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Has there been a post-debate “Milibounce”? Signs are good, but lets not get carried away

    Has there been a post-debate “Milibounce”? Signs are good, but lets not get carried away

    Here’s a Sunday Times front page that Miliband and his team will be delighted with – a four point lead with YouGov and talk of momentum for Labour: But – it’s only one poll. That’s the best and most important place to start when talking about a post-debate bounce for Labour (or a “Milibounce” as it was inevitably labelled). The only poll that has been released so far with fieldwork produced post-debate is the YouGov poll in today’s Sunday Times – […]

    Read more →
  • News 40 days to go: Alexander kicks off Labour’s campaign

    40 days to go: Alexander kicks off Labour’s campaign

    Today Douglas Alexander, Labour’s Chair of General Election Strategy, will visit marginal seat Ealing Central and Acton to mark the fact that there are 40 campaigning days left until the general election. Alexander will also visit this constituency, which Labour’s candidate Rupa Huq hopes to win from Conservative Angie Bray, to send a message that Labour have 40 policies that would make Britain better (a list of which can be found below). This ties in with Labour’s campaign slogan “A […]

    Read more →
  • Comment It’s time for the Tories to come clean on their secret £12billion plan to hit children, carers, families and disabled people

    It’s time for the Tories to come clean on their secret £12billion plan to hit children, carers, families and disabled people

    David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith have repeatedly refused to explain how they would make the £12 billion cuts in social security spending that their fiscal plans for the next parliament depend on. If anyone wondered why, now  we know. Leaked documents drawn up by civil servants for Conservative ministers and reportedly discussed with Conservative officials, confirm that this extreme cuts plan would hit disabled people and their carers hard. The Tories have denied this is their plan. But the truth is […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit