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5 live Breakfast: The first anniversary of the Coalition

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 16:51 UK time, Friday, 13 May 2011

What's your verdict on the coalition government at Westminster, as it marks its first birthday?

Over the last few days on 5 live Breakfast, I've been trying to find out.

Few dispute the scale and the scope of the government's ideas for change in its first year. But for all of those who see them a positive step, plenty of others disagree.

What stands out for you as the most controversial decision taken by Messrs Cameron and Clegg in the last twelve months?

Three struck me as worth taking a look at this week:

University tuition fees in England

My first stop was the University of Kent in Canterbury.

Suddenly I realised why so many parts of the UK have been having terrific weather recently. It's exam time.

But there wasn't a vast queue of students up for chatting to Rachel Burden and I at half six in the morning.

Helen Wood, the President of the University of Kent Students Union, scraped herself out of bed for us.

Helen Wood

Helen Wood, President of the University of Kent Students Union

"Everything's been tipped upside down in the last year," Helen told me. The University of Kent is planning to charge tuition fees of £9,000 a year from 2012. "I'd have never believed it a year ago. It hits home when you think of younger brothers and sisters. People are making their decisions on where to go based on the cost."

Owen Lyne, a Lecturer in Statistics and activist with the University and College Union, told me it'll completely change the relationship between students, universities and lecturers.

"Universities won't have any more money - and yet students will expect more for their money, because they're paying more. University will be an economic transaction, and it shouldn't be that."

But many argue leaving things as they are is unsustainable, and those benefiting from going to university should pay the going rate for it.

Cuts in government spending

Next stop for me, for Thursday's Breakfast, was Linlithgow in West Lothian.

The coalition are planning £81billion pounds of cuts over the next four years.

I went to meet Robert Collin, who runs Cube Architecture. Robert told me that over the last three years or so his clients have changed. Fewer working families can afford an extension, for instance. Either money is very tight or people are scared it will be if they lose their job.

Retired people, or those whose kids have left home and are about to retire, do have the money for renovations and building work.

But he's noticed another interesting trend, which he also links to government spending cuts.

"Workers are being asked to work from home," Robert tells me. "But home workers don't have the space, so the solution is an office in the garden. Some of them are just two square metres - room for a desk, a computer and a phone. And it is a mixture of public sector and private sector people after them - from bankers to those working for the NHS."


For the final stop of my tour, I rolled up in Radlett in Hertfordshire, to look at the controversial changes planned for the English NHS - which involve giving more power to family doctors, and to the private sector.

The Red House Surgery has been seeing local patients since 1905. The records kept here show who saw the doctor in the 1920s - and how much he charged them, before the NHS was founded.

The Practice Manager Ken Spooner generously welcomed me in, despite it being the wrong side of six o'clock in the morning.

Ken and Dr Mike Ingram, a GP at the surgery for almost 25 years, have signed up for a pilot scheme testing the new arrangements. It's involved a trip to Westminster; even a cup of tea in Downing Street.

Ken's approach is pragmatic. He has reservations, but thinks it's better to be involved from the outset rather than carp from the sidelines.

But he's worried about the detail, and the implications for the surgery and the patients: "We could end up replacing one lot of bureaucracy with another," he says.

Dr Ingram, too, is drawn towards the government's big picture theme here. He likes the idea of empowering surgeries like Red House, but also has his concerns.

"I am attracted by the veneer of responsibility, to be more involved in the care of our patients. But what we're worried about is what's underneath that veneer. Where will the ultimate responsibility lie? Will we be left with all the blame and none of the power?"

David Cameron's future - and the future of the coalition government as it enters its second year - could rest upon convincing people like Ken Spooner and Dr Mike Ingram that he has definitive answers to their questions.


Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter


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  • Comment number 1.

    NUS President at the Univeristy and University Lecturer and activist with the University and College Union ... nice to see 5Live finding two balanced points of view.

    Then in the spirit of austerity the 'Westminister RJ' travels all the way to Scotland (why does 5Live bother to employ a Scotish RJ?) to a rusted-on Labour constituency, where the MP drew almost twice as many votes as both Coalition parties combined.

    All in a days work!

    "What's your verdict on the coalition government at Westminster, as it marks its first birthday? Over the last few days on 5 live Breakfast, I've been trying to find out."

    Looks like you've been trying to interview Unions and stir up debate on contentious issues among interest groups to me.

    This article is two days late and clearly published as an after thought late on Friday. If you'd been trying to find out what my verdict was on the coalition government you would have asked. And you would have asked earlier in the week on this blog and if you couldn't have asked me directly you'd have asked a much more representative sample than the example of two Union activists in eduction sector.

    This was news on Wednesday. It's 48 hours too late Chris. Surely you had time on your trip to/from Scotland to write/post this?

  • Comment number 2.

    #1 - Could not agree more.
    Like many blogposts on the BBC, this is ANOTHER unnecessary one. It looks like R. Peston has been teaching people how to post.My verdict on the coaliton govt? Well, SOMEBODY has to govern the country and so it HAPPENS to be a Tory-Lib Dem coalition. My verdict would not be different if it had been any other combination of parties or single party.
    Please don't post any more blogs. They are unnecessary, repetitive and time-wasters, like many of the BBC presenters.

  • Comment number 3.

    Less than a month ago Chris you were telling us how wonderful life was in Shetland after a visit. Now, of all the places you could have chosen to go in the UK you've traisped off again to Scotland to tell us the thoughts of one man to review the coalition.

    What a ridiculous waste of money. Did you really have to go to the furtherest reaches of the UK twice in a month when you're based in London?

    It is nonsensical on the grounds of geographical coverage and economics.

    This of course wasn't to discuss the SNP or the Scottish Assembly elections, something which might warrant a trip, for that 5Live despatched Rachel Burden was there also for a day, just simply to review the Coalition.

    Couldn't the 5Live regional journalist have been used this time, Jon Pienaar, or use the BBC Scotland Political Editor, or the Scottish chap on the Radio 4/5 election night coverage, or the telephone.

    It seems like the austerity narrative is falling on deaf ears at 5Live Towers.

    It would be unbelievable if it wasn't the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    Ryan, I think what sticks in the collective BBC throat is that the Conservatives were meant to get a kicking at the ballot box last week and they didn't. The BBC "lost" the AV vote and the gains that their nominated political party were supposed to make just did not happen. So it is a bunch of sour grapes from our state sponsored broadcaster.

    If I were them I would be extremely grateful that the cuts have not been even more severe. Especially at the BBC.

  • Comment number 5.

    In post #3, ryanw asks, "Did you really have to go to the furtherest reaches of the UK twice in a month when you're based in London? It is nonsensical on the grounds of geographical coverage and economics."

    In a post a few weeks back, ryanw admits to having been to New York several times this year.

    Pot, kettle....

  • Comment number 6.

    Well we know what Chris does for a living but as you don't know why ryanw went to NYC I think you are being a bit bitchy Dave.

  • Comment number 7.


    Dave, you intervention is comical and if that is the best defense you can muster to support this waste of money and resources it really does illustrate my point.

    Three critical points which I expect will be completely lost on you are that (a) my trips were paid for by me whereas Chris' trips were paid for by licensee fee payers, how I spend my own money is irrelevant (b) Chris could have used to telephone to conduct his interview (c) Chris could have chosen anywhere else in the UK to travel to interview someone.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh, and another for good measure (d) there are any number of well qualified BBC journalists, both working for 5Live and the BBC Scotland political team, a lot closer who could have conducted this interview.

    I admire you trying to defend the indefensible though. You're not a BBC employee are you?

  • Comment number 9.

    course he is

  • Comment number 10.

    Its always infuriating when posters from the anti 5live brigade accuse others of being BBC Moles, how is this going to encourage new posters to participate on this blog? I bet many 5live fans are put of commenting because of the rather aggressive and immature nature of such posters.

  • Comment number 11.

    I'm not a BBC employee, just someone who's fed up with what Fedster describes as the "aggressive" nature of many of the posts on these blog pages.

    I noticed a sign on a bus the other day which said, "Our staff have the right to work without the fear of abuse or assault". I'm guessing the critics on here haven't started to assault BBC staff yet, but abuse them they most certainly do.

    Chris Mason is simply doing his job. It is not up to ryanw, who I assume doesn't work for the BBC, to tell him that his article is late and is an afterthought (post #1), and it is not up to ryanw to tell him that he could have conducted his interviews on the telephone (post #7).

  • Comment number 12.


    1. 5Live covered the Coalition anniversary on Wednesday. This blog post *IS* late. AFTER the anniversary, AFTER the coverage on 5Live. An AFTER thought -- otherwise it would have be posted earlier. Q.E.D.

    2. I'm not saying Chris was wrong to conduct the interviews he did, but the broader wisdom of TRAVELLING all the way to Scotland twice in a month when as I said plenty other parts of the UK are routinely ignored by 5Live AND there were other ways of soliciting Scottish opinion on the Coalition is right to call into question.

    3. Fortunately, despite some attempts to the stymie debate we are all free to express our opinions here.

    4. The narrative of this post revolves around the reforms undertaken by the Coalition and the fiscal restraint required after the terrible economic state outgoing Labour government left our country in. We've just had an interesting series on regional journalists, I think it was topical therefore to ask why James wasnt used in this instance, and in the context of a post about cuts, why 5Live isn't more economical with its travel expenditure.

    Lastly, and most unfortunately, accountability and transparency doesn't sit well with BBC who for example regularly evade (sadly, legally) FOI disclosures and chose not to release a more full set of Rajar numbers, despite the figures not being commercial sensitive as competitors already have access.

  • Comment number 13.

    No matter what the bloggers write on these pages, ryanw and others use the articles as an excuse for another anti-BBC rant. These rants are sometimes abusive, often ill-informed, and always tiresome.

    The critics hide behind their usernames and carp from the sidelines knowing full well that the individuals they attack can't answer back. It is, in fact, a form of bullying and every time I raise an objection, I am accused of defending the indefensible and of being a BBC employee.

    I won't be making any more contributions to these pages because it seems rather pointless. But don't think that because you shout the loudest, you've won the argument; it's often the case, particularly on the internet, that those who shout the loudest are ignored the longest.

  • Comment number 14.

    I can't think why some people get so upset about some posters having an opinion.I very much enjoy reading what others say and I certainly wouldn't catergorize it as some form of abuse or aggression.I don't always agree with what people write but I don't find it tiresome or tedious.Its a real shame that Dave has decided to flounce off.Seems rather drastic to me.It would still be a good idea to have a place where listeners/licence payers can have a voice.Its not like its asking for the earth is it ?

  • Comment number 15.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 16.

    Dave, it will be sorry to see you not post anymore. We all have a stake in the BBC, we fund it at all, under a compulsory levy, and should be free to express our opinion.

    I disagree that my posts are relentless negative, indeed I regularly offer praise when it is due, for example to the brilliant Rhod Sharp (long appreciated and much forgotten), 5Live Sport, until the inclusion of Robbie Savage, I've often praised too.

    I've expressed a coherent, cogent argument with 4 reasons as to why for example Chris' licensee-fee funded trip was unwise, you're rebuttal was a spurious one about my personally funded travel arrangements and now you've thrown your toys out out of the cot.

    Scrutiny through these posts have helped bring about many insights and answers to help listeners better connect with the station and understand the motivations of decisions and background of how radio is made. We've got regular Q&A sessions, the release of award entries, wonderful insights in how radio is made during the 24 Hours blog series and called for the interested Regional Journalist series to name just a few.

    These are good things.

    Calling into question political balance, geographic balance, financial expenditure, scrutinizing the programming decisions or editorial content doesn't mean you hate the BBC. Far from it.

    Thinking that it is a waste of money for the Westminster journalist to travel to Scotland twice in four weeks (when there are more economical solutions) or that Stephen Nolan shouldn't been flown from Belfast each week and put up in hotel for 3 days each week doesn't mean I'm anti-BBC.

    I'd just like our money used a little more wisely.

  • Comment number 17.

    Non English you claim that if posts were abusive they would be removed, that claim is complete and utter tosh, i can find many instances of abuse on this blog as well as other BBC Blogs and Messageboards, claims of alleged joint 5live and Sony corruption is just 1 pathetic, abusive claim that has been made on this Blog.

    Abusive posts are rife across BBC Social Media so to suggest otherwise is blatantly denying the obvious.

  • Comment number 18.

    #17 - QED - see how my post #15 has been removed. Well done moderators for proving my point !!!

  • Comment number 19.

    I dont think your point has been proved at all, what it does show is abusive posts are not acceptable.

  • Comment number 20.

    Fedster, out of interest what are these claims of 5Live and Sony corruption? That is a very strong word.

    Are you talking about the a published report in the Guardian of Robbie Savage personally tweeting that someone allegedly was offering a mini as an prize for 'one lucky person' who votes for him?

  • Comment number 21.

    I think Fed needs to be a little careful of making accusations against others on here and being able to differentiate between a Guardian article and those that post referring to it or his post could be construed as being of an abusive nature.Who the hell has the time to spend trawling across BBC Social Media looking for what they consider ' abuse '. It just sounds like some wayward moderator in meltdown.

  • Comment number 22.

    In response to posts 20 and 21 i was in fact referring to a post by Carrie in a previous blog in which she said “Steve, Steve, Steve. The Radio Academy is hardly a neutral to the BBC now is it? Of course it's a fix” she has echoed these points in recent blogs as well.

    This again points to the aggressive nature of the regulars on here, and also proves the points made by David are valid.

  • Comment number 23.

    * Dave not David

  • Comment number 24.

    Can't find Carrie's post you refer to Fed. Any clues ?

  • Comment number 25.


    post 37

    So reading that Binkie do you accept posts by you regulars from the anti 5live brigade are abusive and outlandish thus putting fans of 5live of?

  • Comment number 26.

    If the Sony judging committees weren't backed up to the eyeballs by present and past BBC employees I wouldn't say a word, but despite not being able to sit in judgement on your own bits of the competitions, if you have ever had anything to do with the luvvie world of the media, you would not say what you say Fedster. I am not a BBC employee but I do sometimes move within that circle and everyone knows everyone else, and everyone looks after everyone else, it is not that big a world.

    As for Savage's offer to voters in order to win his Sony, it is nothing less than disgraceful and I note the powers that be are silent about it. But he is one of them now you see, so I suppose we have to expect it. He calls himself a broadcaster so will probably get his own programme, to himself, next season.

  • Comment number 27.

    So in other words you are accusing the Sony Award judges of being corrupt without a shred of evidence, thus lending weight to the points made by Dave in posts 11 and 13, is this not a form of bullying as Dave states? Questioning the integerity and honesty of judges including BBC Staff without any evidence on a public forum is hardly fair is it.

    It just goes to show the underlining probelm which is the regular anti 5live posters making bizzare accusations to suit their agenda, but getting aggressive and accusing posters of being BBC moles when they are challenged.

  • Comment number 28.

    And I believe in free speech, I didn't complain, or ever have done, about @26 or any other post, before someone says it was me.

  • Comment number 29.

    Carrie i guess its easier to censor posts which expose the truth, you are digging yourself in a hole, your previous posts are there for all to see.

  • Comment number 30.

    Good grief Fed Carrie's post is over a year old.I can't remember what anyone wrote ( including me ) from last week.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm not sure but I think I only have ever had 2 or 3 posts pulled in years of posting.

    Fedster I love 5 Live, just sections of it are so awful in comparison to what we all used to hear.

    And it is a free country.

  • Comment number 32.

    @29. What would be the point in the mods censoring posts that tell the truth?

    Back to the point. I would like to know when the rest of the country is going to get a look in. We have had Universities, Scotland and the NHS. There are plenty of big subjects affecting our lives that seem to be missing. Regions of England, NI and Wales, tourism, farming and food production, heavy and light industry, in no particular order and I could go on.

  • Comment number 33.

    This post will now be closed. Most of the comments are nothing to do with the original piece. This is not a place for personal arguments.


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