The newspapers are awash with articles previewing today’s
Queen’s Speech, but few stand out as much as James Chapman’s
interview with David Cameron in the Daily Mail. Here, Cameron does something that he rarely does: complain about life with the Lib Dems. There was that one time when he claimed the Tories would be ‘making further steps’ on welfare and immigration
were they in a majority government, of course — but this goes further than that. He tells the paper, ‘There is a growing list of things that I want to do but can’t.’
As for the specific items on that list, Cameron mentions ECHR reform, employment regulation and the recognition of marriage in the tax system. For the first two of these, he just leaves it hanging
that a Tory government would be able to achieve more by itself. But for the last, he holds a significant scrap of reassurance up to his party. ‘Clearly on things like recognising marriage in
the tax system, I got a specific carve-out in the Coalition agreement that we could propose something which the Lib Dems don’t have to vote for, but I still think we’d get
through,’ he says; before adding that, ‘That’s something that will be done this Parliament. But obviously in a majority Conservative government, these things would be more
It’s not all about differentiating the Tories from the Lib Dems, though, as Cameron also highlights that the coalition is united on fixing the economy, etc. And this, I imagine, will
increasingly be the way of it from now on: emphasising unity on the core task of deficit reduction, while suggesting dissimilarities around the edges. In the lifespan of a normal government, this
would be about the time when they can no longer rely on blaming the last lot, and have to do more to set out the future they want to see. For a coalition, that process creates divide almost as a
matter of course, given that both of its constituent parts see the future differently.
Whether Cameron’s intervention will placate his more disgruntled backbenchers is another question entirely. My guess is that they’ll deploy the point made by Liam Fox a couple of weeks ago: that the Lib Dems represent only ‘one-sixth’ of the
coalition, so they should expect Tory thinking to prevail more often than not.
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