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Daily View: Taking stock of the coalition

Clare Spencer | 08:52 UK time, Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Nick Clegg and David CameronParliament breaks for summer recess today so commentators look back at how the coalition has gone so far.

Ex-Conservative MP Paul Goodman says in the Telegraph that David Davis's jibe that this is a "Brokeback coalition" uncovers fear among some on the right of the Tory party that they are being ignored by their leader:

"But there's a real Tory anxiety behind the camp jokes that compare the Prime Minister and his deputy to gay cowboys. After all, it's only a few weeks since Cameron tried to merge the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers with his Ministerial team. He was forced to back down, and the internal elections that followed were a landslide for the Right. The PM recently wooed a mass meeting of Tory MPs, telling them that he will do more to love his party. But they suspect his passions are engaged elsewhere. 'I wish I knew how to quit you,' says one of the Brokeback Mountain lovers to the other. Some Conservatives fear that their leader, too, is gripped by a compulsion he simply can't resist."

Tory blogger Iain Dale thinks the coalition is doing well with working out differences:

"Of course there are differences between coalition parties. Otherwise the two parties would become one. So far any differences have been ironed out very quickly, and the fact that interpersonal relationships are good says a lot about the goodwill between the party leaderships. I actually think that goodwill is reflected in the vast majority of both parliamentary parties and their memberships."

The Guardian editorial says despite positive poll results, the coalition members will still have to do more to convince the public:

"On balance, the public likes parties to co-operate and thinks the coalition is doing a good job. But this could change as the political drumbeat increases in the autumn, Labour elects a new leader and the cuts kick in. Any such change is likely to rattle Lib Dem nerves before it shakes... If they are to avoid party revolts and major disenchantment among well-wishers, Nick Clegg and his Lib Dem ministers are going to have to do a much more active and sensitive job of selling the coalition, and the place of the spending cuts within it, than they have done thus far."

In the Financial Times Philip Stephens looks at how the coalition has been working out for the opposition:

"As it is, Mr Cameron's enforced marriage to Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats has bred a lethal complacency on Westminster's opposition benches.
"Savage public spending cuts will soon enough put an end to the coalition's honeymoon, the reasoning goes. All Labour need do is sit tight, denounce each and every cut, and wait for Mr Clegg's party to lose its nerve. Labour, after all, is only 50 seats behind the Tories in the House of Commons. Political professionals call that a one-election margin.
"The trouble with this thesis is that there is no iron law of politics that says an electorate fed up with its government will necessarily opt for the alternative. One might have thought that Labour had learnt that lesson during the 1980s. Angry as it will doubtless become with the coalition, the nation is not stupid."

James Forsyth says in the Spectator that once Labour has a new leader, the Liberal Democrats will be in danger:

"Over the summer, the Coalition will have to devote considerable energy to working out how to protect the Lib Dems against the onslaught that is coming from the new Labour leader. Any further erosion in the Lib Dem poll rating could well destabilise the government."

Rachel Sylvester speculates in the Times [subscription required] that the coalition is going so well that there may be further alliance in the next election:

"What is a very real possibility, though, is some sort of electoral pact. Michael Portillo recently predicted that Conservative and Liberal Democrats would stand as 'coalition candidates' in 2015. Another option is for both parties to encourage anti-Labour tactical voting. Yesterday Mark Field, a Tory MP, said he thought that the Conservatives would give Lib Dems a 'free run' or 'hold their fire' in seats where Labour is the main challenge...
"The introduction of AV would, of course, make it easier for the two parties to come to an informal arrangement. Mr Cameron could simply urge Conservatives to put Lib Dems as their second choice, and Mr Clegg ask supporters to put the Tory below the Lib Dem. This may be why the Prime Minister is agnostic about a change to the voting system - and why some of his allies are actively promoting the idea of reform."

Links in full

Paul Goodman | Telegraph | Cameron and Clegg have entered a partnership that's too civil for the Right
Iain Dale | The BrokeBack Club Should Be Strangled at Birth
Guardian | British politics: End of the beginning
Philip Stephens | Financial Times | Labour has fallen victim to electoral success
James Forsyth | Spectator | Protecting the Coalition's vulnerable party
Rachel Sylvester | Times | Could the Tories swing a metrosexual merger?

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