Thursday, May 29, 2014

The real progresive coalition

Well, it's over. The good guys won, democracy prevails! I wondered how Labour could have even considered a coalition of the losers, how could they have the bare-faced nerve? They were beaten far more soundly than Howard's Tories in 2005, and on a higher turnout. But it turns out the pressure was coming from the usual suspects, Campbell and Mandy, and their backbenchers saw sense.

So, coalition then. The two parties are, in my view, the best for the job. Labour making tax (or more likely borrow) and spend concessions to the beardies in the Lib Dems would have just been a disaster for the economy and would have left us an economic basket case in 4-5 years time. As it is, the Lib Dems have probably been the party that have most acknowledged the deficit problem during the election campaign. The government plans to reduce the deficit by £6 billion this year as is Tory policy. But tempered by the Lib Dems' social liberalism, I think this could be good for the Tories in their 'no-go' areas, leaving those who say 'the Tories of today are just like Thatcher' looking a bit irrelevant. Dare I say it, it may even be good for us in Scotland. You've always got to have a bit of optimism as a Scottish Tory!

Having said that, lot of what the government has to do will not be popular. The dogs on the street know there will be cuts and that VAT is likely to rise. Remember though that all parties said 'no plans' to raise VAT.

The rent-a-mobs are already mobilising on the social networking sites. Unemployment hit 2.51 million yesterday and yet barely a squeak from them. They also hate being reminded of this Alistair Darling quote We'll see what their reaction is if there is a similar increase in the next quarter. I don't believe that the timing of these BA strikes is a coincidence either.

I read a telling comment from one Labour supporter on Digital Spy Politics (not the most unbiased nor informed forum) that 'no-one mentioned the national debt on the doorstep'. That doesn't surprise me. Over 13 years we've had a government that has insulated people from economic reality, a debt-fuelled boom, and a lot of people can't see that the country is BROKE! AND that much of the blame lies with Brown. Britain had a structural deficit problem during the boom years instead of building up reserves to spend during recession, because Gordon abolished boom and bust of course. I hope Osborne delivers a scathing verdict on the books, in fact it is one of the moments I most look forward to. If it is backed up by the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws, then all the better.It's widely thought that they are much worse than Labour have let on, in fact there have been descriptions of Labour's figures on the economy as nothing short of 'fraudulent'.

So pretty good on the economy - Tories have been allowed to reduce deficit this year which I think is the right decision. If you can't cut public spending by 1% without damaging the recovery then it is no recovery. I'm happy that the Lib Dem policy of taking the first £10,000 out of tax will be phased in over the parliament. It makes a mockery of Labour's 'progressive' coalition.

Another area where Labour were anything but progressive (great to talk about them in the past tense!) was on civil liberties and I'm delighted that there is a detailed plan in the coalition deal to repeal much of Labour's 13 years of authoritarian legislation. Amending the smoking ban would have been nice as well but I realise I'm pissing against the wind. Still, point 10 of the coalition deal is, quite simply, an epic win, popular even with many Labour supporters.

A few epic fails: Capital Gains Tax increase, AV, fixed term parliaments and the 55% rule. I am heartened that so many Conservatives are already speaking out in particular against the last one. I don't go along with the hysterics though - if a majority of the House turned against the Conservatives i.e. the coalition broke down, the government would not be able to pass legislation and they'd be screwed. As with Labour this week, there'd be too much pressure on them to do the right thing. I'm confident AV would be defeated in a referendum, however. I don't think people would want a repeat of this week after every election, however exciting it is for us political geeks.

So good luck Prime Minister Cameron! There's a tough few years ahead but if we're disciplined in cutting the deficit now things could be looking a lot better by the end of the parliament. The alternative doesn't bear thinking about...

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