“Reaffirming an unhappy relationship is never going to be easy. And recently, the Coalition partners have had much to test their governing happiness. Ministerial gaffs, the controversial budget, the petrol strike that never was, and an increasing sense at unease with the direction of economic travel – these have conspired to characterise a government with an increasing decline of momentum.
The on-going austerity drive is seen to be failing, whilst ostensibly George Osborne’s economic strategy appears more indicative of an absence of ideas linked to free market ideology. Politically, this conspires to frame the Coalition as advocates of misery rather than hope. The recent weeks have, therefore, not been easy ones for this Coalition government. So, in an attempt to re-launch the Cameron/Clegg nuptial, the partners have striven to lay the foundations for a new impetus.
This Queen’s Speech appears designed to keep the junior partner joined at the political hip. For the Conservatives, the recent by-elections are part of the usual course. Mid-term blues are nothing new to the senior partner, who shrug them off safe in the knowledge of a core support base. However, for the Liberal Democrats, the loss of hundreds of foot soldiers will prove more hazardous. So, what is to be done? Part of the answer can be found in today’s Queen’s Speech.
The Queen’s Speech has an ambitious flavour revered by progressives – Lords Reform, Banking Reform, the Fair Comment Clause… seemingly, these may appear more appealing to the progressive support base. Yet, let us not be naïve. For the junior partner, securing these objectives simply appears to legitimise their continuing participation in the Tories bedchamber. Indeed, in the Commons Chamber the power dynamic increasingly favours the growing belligerence amongst the backbenchers of the senior partner. Specifically, Lords Reform will grind to a slow and undignified halt; the Chinese Wall through the banking sector will act as a face-saving measure; the televising of court procedures will challenge shopping television in the race to the bottom of ratings losers… these are ideas to convince the lost electorate that the Lib Dem’s do actually influence policy!
So, how could this Queen’s Speech be interpreted? It can be seen simply as a programme for government that enables the Coalition to continue with its first priority, that of further cuts in the pursuit of austerity. Now the Liberal Democrats have a legitimising political shield to enable them to sleep easy, whilst the Conservatives retain their human shield. Meanwhile, the increasingly vocal Conservative backbenchers are becoming more disconcerted by what they see as pandering to the impulses of the junior partner, whilst dusting off their rule books on initiating a Conservative Leadership Election…”
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