Monday, May 10, 2010

What next for the UK government?

There are now four possible permutations of a new British government. Don't be deluded that the substance of any of them remotely reflects the difference in form. So what are they? What do they mean for less government?

Conservative minority government: A confidence and supply agreement between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. It will have to include at least some commitment by the Conservatives to support steps towards electoral reform, and principles around a budget. The Conservatives would form the government and Cabinet, and the Liberal Democrats would agree to support a budget and keep the government in power. Beyond that every bill would be negotiated on a case by case basis. Likely to be more acceptable to the wider Liberal Democratic Party as it would mean many of its policies would not be sacrificed to a coalition, but subject to parliamentary scrutiny. Liberal Democrats can claim some independence. Conservatives would implement manifesto only subject to obtaining a Parliamentary majority, which would become increasingly difficult. Difficult to see how extensive spending cuts can be implemented. Conservatives may need Labour support for some legislation. Unlikely to last for full-term.

Verdict: More likely to ensure Conservative instincts to restrain taxes will be implemented, but less likely to ensure the few positive Liberal Democrat influences on civil liberties will be addressed. Think watered-down Cameroonian Conservatives, a bit like watered down low-alcohol beer - what's the point?

Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition: A comprehensive agreement, which means a government led by the Conservatives, but with the Liberal Democrats having Cabinet positions. Clegg as Deputy PM (perhaps Home Secretary), and possibly Cable as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Would include a commitment on agreed policies, Liberal Democrat acceptance of certain Conservative policies, and moves towards electoral reform. Gives Liberal Democrats a long sought after direct sharing of Executive power. However, Liberal Democrats will be seen as being part of a Conservative led administration, and so will share responsibility for all policies. Likely to upset many Liberal Democrat supporters, especially if it is a government of austerity as it is likely to send many voters to supporting Labour. Essentially a trade-off of power vs. risk of unpopularity. Verdict - Expect perhaps a more solid commitment to not being authoritarian on law and order, but likely to have a far weaker commitment to cutting spending. An empty glass at best.

Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition, with confidence and supply agreements with multiple minor parties (coalition of the losers). A new Labour leader would be Prime Minister, with Clegg as Deputy and a few other Liberal Democrats in Cabinet. There would be some form of electoral reform given Labour's statements, and policies would be some blend of the two leftwing parties. May need concessions to protect spending in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland whilst spending cuts are harsher elsewhere. However, it binds the two leftwing parties closely, and means another Prime Minister who wasn't standing as such in the election campaign. Verdict - Perhaps some easing of the draconian state of Labour, but watch taxes rise and spending rise (though not so much). Weak hemlock. Watch it try to be a grand coalition for the children and co-parents who are the current majority, and disappoint progressively.

Labour minority government, with confidence and supply agreements only with other parties. As with a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, except Labour carries the Executive and the responsibility for the government, and has to gain approval for all legislation. Likely to be far more unstable, and short lived as the minor parties seek more and more Verdict - Business as usual, except with the need to offer more to the minor parties.

On my part, I simply want two things:

- A government willing to make serious spending cuts;
- A government willing to wind back at least some of the authoritarian measures implemented under Labour.

I don't believe any government involving the Liberal Democrats will do the former, and frankly it is preferable that the next government comprises the thieving parties on the left, and is unstable, than being a short-lived limp-wristed Conservative government. A Labour led government will be a government dominated by parties that did NOT win in England, but won in the other three constituent countries, and if it pillages England to reduce the deficit, leaving the others intact, it will exacerbate the whole West Lothian question.

So go on Nick, Gordon and Mandy (Peter Mandelson), do a sordid little deal, watch you sacrifice English taxpayers to keep the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish in their Soviet bloc style public sector based economies, and pay the price. You'll delay the inevitable, make it obvious what needs to be done, and you'll force another election, and by no means will a majority support proportional representation at that point. You see at that point, a significant number in England will happily let Scotland and Wales go, or demand an English assembly.

1 comment:

Sam P said...

Your commentary on this election has been first-rate LS.