Protempore – Issue 65


Posted by in June's Magazine

By a huge stroke of luck, your correspondent’s general election predictions turned out to be pretty accurate – a hung parliament with the Tories winning the most seats. However, once the dust had settled, not even the most competent soothsayer would have predicted that we would have a coalition government made up of the Tories and the Liberal Democrats. During the election campaign, both parties were poles apart on most of the significant issues and spent a great deal of time warning the electorate of the danger of voting for each other. You’re probably bored of the whole thing by now but bear with me as I try to make sense of what’s actually happened in the past few weeks.

During the campaign David Cameron called Nick Clegg a joke – and at the time he meant it. The Liberal Democrats were the biggest threat to the Tories in most of the marginal seats in the country and Cameron knew that he would have to discredit their leader at every possible opportunity in order to avoid a hung parliament which could see a Labour/ Lib Dem coalition being formed. The Tories were determined to retain the Trident nuclear missile system while the Lib Dems were committed to getting rid of it. The Tories were also adamant that the budget deficit would have to be reduced immediately while the Lib Dems were equally adamant that to do so would risk plunging the country back into recession and argued that the reduction should take place gradually. So once the results were in and it became clear that a coalition government was the only option, how on earth did these two end up together? I’ll tell you how – the Tories promised the Lib Dems seats in the cabinet and concessions on some policies and the Lib Dems, desperate for power in whatever form, fell for it hook, line, and sinker. For all their cosying up to Clegg, the Tories and their right-wing press are nothing more than a nest of vipers and all the talk of a ‘new politics’ and co-operation is a huge smokescreen. Here’s why.

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What positions in the Cabinet did the Lib Dems actually get? Well, Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister – it’s a position with no real authority and absolutely no clout. Clegg could have refused to join the Tories in coalition and forced them to operate in a minority government which would have meant that the Lib Dems would hold sway in votes in the Commons on Tory policies. He could have forced the Tories to make much bigger concessions to his party in return for his support on the issues which the Tories wanted to implement. Now, he’s part of a government which is being driven by the Tories and his opportunities for dissenting on the big issues have suddenly disappeared.

Vince Cable, who should have become the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was shunted to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills because David Cameron’s chum from Eton, Gideon (George) Osbourne simply had to be given the Chancellor’s post despite his well known reputation for incompetence. All of the ‘big’ cabinet posts, foreign secretary, home secretary, health, education, justice, defence, and transport, went to Tories. The Lib Dems got climate change and Scotland and Wales, but they also got the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury which is a poisoned chalice given the state of the nation’s finances. And by all accounts there was only one man for that job, David Laws. But lo and behold, he had a couple of skeletons in his closet and the right-wing Tory press waited until he was being lauded as the most able member of the new government before revealing that he was homosexual and had been paying his partner rent from public funds to the tune of approximately £40,000. In other words, he’s a thief.

Much has been made of Mr Law’s apparent wish to keep his sexuality a secret from his family and he used this as his excuse for fiddling money at the taxpayer’s expense. This won’t wash. I can well understand that there must be many people who are homosexual and who don’t want to announce their sexuality to their families as it may cause considerable and unnecessary upset but why did David Laws, who is a multi-millionaire, think it was okay to pilfer £950 a month and give it to his partner? Wouldn’t his secret have been much safer if he had paid the money out of his own pocket instead of stealing it from an expenses account which is now subject to rigorous scrutiny? There’s only one word for it – greed. And the rabid right-wing press who are completely against the Tory/Lib Dem coalition couldn’t wait to stick the knife in.

And don’t go believing all the tributes to Mr Laws which are tripping off the tongues of Cameron and Osborne – they will be delighted that it’s a Lib Dem politician who’s fallen from grace as this will only exacerbate the ill-feeling towards the party by many who see their bed-in with the Tories as unforgivable. The Tories are playing the long game and are already eyeing up the possibility of an early election in which the Lib Dems will be marginalised thereby opening up the door of No10 for a true blue cabinet. I sincerely hope I’m wrong this time. Protempore

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