Thursday, May 13, 2010

Marry in haste....

It’s a marriage made in hell. Surely it can’t last.

Over optimistically, the first stitch-up of the new coalition is fixed-term five-year Parliaments which means the next election is in 2015.

It’s hard to believe David Cameron and Nick Clegg seriously think their new found love-in will last the course. They have bound themselves together for better or worse, for richer or poorer, for half a decade.

Yet, like cynics at a shotgun wedding, everyone’s wondering if it will last a matter of months never mind years.

On the very eve of the wedding day, Nick couldn’t resist one last flirtation with a Labour Party willing to dump Gordon Brown to make itself more attractive to the Mr Darcy of British politics.

If was a flop. But the attraction remains. There are thousands of Lib-Dems who would like nothing better than a quick romp with a Socialist.

Some of them are positively repelled by the idea that they have been forced to sell themselves to the Tories. And the feeling is mutual.

For Conservatives who do not suffer from a lust for power at any price, the idea of getting into bed with the Lib-Dems is about as appealing as a night on the town with Harriet Harman.

For many Tories, it is a duty to oppose the Labour Party but a positive pleasure to loathe the Liberals.

In many parts of the country, the Lib Dems are the real opposition to the Conservatives. Worse still, the Lib Dems have a well-deserved reputation for fighting dirty. No blow is too low for them.

Now we have the spectacle of the two parties plighting their troth to one another in a ceremony as bizarre as anything Las Vegas could conjure up.

Dave was not up to it on his own; Nick was pregnant with votes. This is a forced marriage. We’re assured it’s the new way of doing things.

What that means – and this is a benefit of coalition – is that the more outlandish, mad and extreme policies of the two parties will be abandoned.

The Tories have dumped their promise to cut inheritance tax for the very rich; the Lib Dems have dropped their plans for a mansion tax on their homes.

The Lib Dems have decided a replacement for the Trident nuclear deterrent is OK after all and they’ve ditched the notion of an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

But the great Cameron give-away includes a pledge to abolish taxes for anyone earning less than £10,000 a year and a new holidays tax.

Worse than that, he’s showered Mr Clegg with wedding presents – fixed-term parliaments, State funding for political parties and a referendum on “unfair voting” via a form of proportional representation.

It’s no wonder the Lib Dem leader was seduced by the Tories. He was offered a pre-nuptial agreement most minor parties would die for.

With a bouquet of Ministerial jobs to go with all of this, the honeymoon between the two parties should be happy and fulfilling.

But like all hasty marriages, once the first fling is over and reality dawns, the chances of the couple living happily ever after will disappear rapidly.

The rot sets in when they start to bicker about money.

The Conservatives are determined to get on with the job of taking the axe to public spending. They don’t really have any choice because the markets will force it on them whether they like it or not.

This will be painful and deeply unpopular. Mr Cameron may think he’s done himself a favour by tying the Lib Dems into this.

But when Mr Clegg’s colleagues discover just how drastic and painful the cuts must be, there will be rows, tantrums and tears.

For decades, Lib Dems have enjoyed the luxury of being able to promise the earth, safe in the knowledge they would never have to deliver anything.

Suddenly, they’re in the spotlight and they won’t like it when their party is accused of conniving with the Conservatives to cripple the public sector.

Usually, the Lib Dems get by on extravagant spending promises. Today they have bound themselves to the very opposite.

In time they will complain they’re being taken for granted.

As the euphoria of the wedding breakfast and the heady days of the honeymoon become distant memories and they deal with the daily drudgery of trying to dredge the economy out of the depths of despair, the Lib Dems will question why they got into this in the first place.

By then, they will have committed themselves to a full five years in an unhappy relationship.

A newly revived Labour Party under a new leader will present itself as “the other party”.

The Lib Dems will be casting longing glances in the direction of the Labour Party even while they are stuck in this relationship with the Tories.

Mr Clegg may even start talking about divorce and throw himself at Labour. It probably won’t do him any good, though – hell hath no fury like a Labour Party scorned.

This coalition is a marriage of convenience. It will end in bitter divorce.

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