Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Coalition: 100 Not Out

When the Coalition was formed back in May, the cynics said it wouldn't last. The media have spent the last three months vainly searching for signs of splits and laying bets as to who might be the first Cabinet Minister to resign. Every minute mistake was analysed to the 'n'th degree. Every prime ministerial comment was rated on a 'gaffe-ometer'.

And meanwhile the media missed the real story, which was that what Tim Montgomerie has accurately described as the "Breakneck Coalition" has quietly got on with running the country and making huge changes in the way we are governed.

Francis Maude and his implementation team ought to feel proud of themselves. They prepared for government in a way no previous Opposition had done. They and David Cameron were paranoid about throwing away the first term, just like Tony Blair had done. Blair was so intoxicated by the fact that Labour had managed to win an election, that he didn't get on with the reforms that had been promised until way into their second term. Cameron was determined not to make that mistake.

If you look at what's happened in virtually every government department, there have been a huge number of initiatives and reforms. Look at Eric Pickles at the DCLG. The way he has gripped his department and driven through a whole series of measures has been hugely impressive. He is the undoubted star of the first 100 days of the coalition. No Cabinet Minister has made such as massive impact on his area of policy as Pickles. A close second is Theresa May at the Home Office, always a difficult department to grip. May hasn't been slow in imposing her will and someone who many observers felt might struggle, has instead impressed hugely. Some people fit government like a glove, and she seems to be one.

There are two further reasons for the Coalition's success. Firstly, they have managed to persuade the public of the seriousness of the deficit and managed to take the public with them in their quest to improve the public finances. This will be increasingly important after the CSR takes place on 20 October.

Secondly, the strong interpersonal relationships between the coalition partners has been a vital part in its smooth running. The initial press conference by Clegg and Cameron in the Downing Street Rose Garden set the agenda for their ministerial colleagues to follow. Chris Huhne told me that he felt it was working well because they were all positive, got on with each other on a personal level, but perhaps more importantly were all learning the ministerial ropes at the same time.

There have obviously been glitches. Any new government will make small mistakes. The most important thing is to avoid big mistakes, and thinking back, it's difficult to think of any.

I'd give the Coalition 7 or 8 out of ten for their first hundred days. Even huge critics of the Conservatives and LibDems must surely agree that it has hit the ground running, imposed its agenda and looks set to last far longer than most commentators predicted at the start.

* From 9pm tonight I will be holding an hour long panel discussion into the Coalition's first 100 days. All I have to do is mull over who to invite to be the guests. Any ideas?


Newmania said...

I have been impressed with the coalition,so impressed in fact that I intend to vote for AV at the referendum which in tandem with rationalised constituencies seems fair enough to me.
The looming problem is that the polls for Cleggs Lib Dems show that two Party politics are deeply ingrained and I am yet to work out how to vote for the coalition at the next election

Nice piece Iain , glad to see you back on form recently

The Purpleline said...

The area of major concern is defence and the the issue of an independent Nuclear deterrent.

I would therefore propose you invite the chap from Sky Tim Marshall who has an excellent understanding of Geo- politics or if he is away in the Middle East somebody from Stratfor
www dot stratfor dot com/ who are probably the best analysts in this field.

For the sake of saving billions we do not want to risk 60 millions (That's us folks)

How can you cut defence budgets when involved in two Blair wars?

Brian said...

David Laws retired hurt?

Unknown said...

Simon Hughes. If he doesn't appear on every media outlet each day to discuss the coalition he will combust.

Anonymous said...

Here's some guest suggestions:
Lord Mandelson - I suspect would be impressed by the first 100 days.
Edward Balls - Deficit Denier, (soon to become a criminal offence?).
Simon Hughes - because every discussion programme needs an insufferable c*ck.

We should never forget Hughes - gay but not 'out' - rank hypocrisy when he was elected in Bermondsey campaigning against Peter Tatchell - gay, republican - with the slogan "which Queen do you want to be ruled by?" I disagree with both their policies but truly admire Peter Tatchell as one of the bravest figures in public life. Simon Hughes on the other hand ...........

BJ said...

Re Theresa May: I agree that she's had a reasonably good start in a difficult job. So I was surprised to read Matthew D'Ancona's diatribe against her in GQ yesterday. It was very unpleasant, and said she was rubbish, but didn't seem to offer any evidence.

Any thoughts about what's going on here?

Robert said...

This coalition thingy is so good more people should have voted for it.

Dick the Prick said...

Arghh...hmmm...dunno. Pickles, sure - good lad. May, sure - good lass. Gove's been slated but has done the right thing (there's a Dawkins thing on faith schools tonight that could be alright if you suspend irritation at the man). Osborne's done well with the OBR and stuff.

However, and it's a humungous however, what have they actually done? Other than setting out plans and intentions, what has occurred? At present all I can hear is talk which is good for the markets and nice for us tories to hear but I don't need romancing, I want some serious loving action and at the moment they may have the lingerie on but I'm still craning my head to watch match of the day.

I'm not sure we can translate a presidential timetable over to Blighty and i guess having a May election always gave rise to a legislative timetable dominated by recess. I think a better timetable would be better analysed after the CSR. But 5 out of 10 for me.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the odd glitch; more important, a sense of purpose and a team all singing from the same song sheet.

No reason why this show should not run and run ... and run, least of all because of the shambles of the Labour Party and the calibre of its leader wannabes.

Mirtha Tidville said...

If you want some real explosive fire power invite Simon Hughes along.He clearly hates anything to do with the Tories and never misses a trick to undermine short he gives the impression that his dummy is out of the cot because he wasnt invited to the party.......

Anonymous said...

The other point about the pace of reform is that the country has suffered from a sclerosis under Brown and Blair where reform has been squashed.

We have come out from 13 wasted years, the country needs to change to move forward to come out of Browns dark ages.

Fenrir said...

I would invite Simon Hughes, David Laws and Champagne Kevin from the Mirror.

Unknown said...

I've never seen you write such nonsense Iain. This "coalition" is nothing but an excuse for Cameron to be his real liberal self.
They have none nothing to make hard descions they've just increased taxes on easy targets like me and the rest of the middle classes who have children.
The difficult decision of cutting public sector pensions will never be made. This is a government of the public sector, for the public sector, by the public sector.

Where is the promised cap on immigration? Where are the public sector cuts? (none that I've seen other than the gleefull talk of the possibility from the BBC).

My taxes have been increased from 18% to 28%. Our child benefit of £230/month seems likely to be cut (child benefit is a negative tax). Where are everybody else's sacrifices?

I work hard and get punished. Where is the legislation to prevent the average retirement age of a complete police force being 49?

Beware - I'm in a position to avoid taxes simply by breaking the law, I have never done so in the past because I believe that one has a moral duty to pay fair taxes. However I DO NOT believe I have any moral duty to fund a donut eating secound-rate policeman's 40 year retirement in Spain at my expense.

The Right of the Tory party has disapeared. Its time to stop paying taxes.

Pogo said...

There's been a lot of talk but precious little real action.

Theresa May has made some impressive-sounding pronouncements - which appear to have been completely ignored by ACPO.

2/10 - must try harder.

golden_balls said...

After a busy day at work i needed a good laugh !

I hear your in Edinburgh soon have you not considered going to an open mic night i assure you you'd get everyone rolling in the aisles with this gem of a blog.

Tapestry said...

'breakneck coalition' was coined by moi.

Anonymous said...

Don't underestimate John Hayes and David Willetts (Ministers of State at BIS) either.

While the dynamics of their relationship with St Vince Cable may not be easy, all three of them have won respect - albeit grudging in some quarters - among the notoriously cynical, sceptical and prickly university and college workforce by demonstrably taking the trouble to listen, to recognise the complexities of change and to try and to champion the contribution that post-school education makes to economic health and social capital.

strapworld said...


Should create a few fireworks!

bob said...

"making huge changes in the way we are governed."

"rubs eyes"

Sorry have i been asleep whilst these changes have been made.

I'm not sure what changes they have actually implimented as yet that significantly change anything.

The only thing i can think of is the scrapping of police targets (which as said a few posts up have been ignored).