Coffee House

Tories and Lib Dems will want to break the rules if there’s another Coalition

9 May 2014

1:03 PM

9 May 2014

1:03 PM

The Coalition has been much more of a success than anyone could have predicted when it formed in 2010. It hasn’t just held together for spending cuts, but has passed important reforms to welfare and education. It’s important to repeat that now, when the partnership is growing increasingly tired and snappy. The parties spent yesterday pecking at one another over whether or not to introduce tougher mandatory sentences for repeat knife offences. They won’t produce a Queen’s Speech bursting with legislative excitements, either.

But one of the things that this Coalition has shown us is that it’s not just the policy red lines that make a difference to whether a government of more than one party can be radical: it’s the plumbing too. And one important piece of plumbing that the Conservatives don’t seem to have fully understood the implications of when it was put in place is the Home Affairs Committee.


As I write in my Telegraph column today, some Conservative ministers and advisers would very much like it if Nick Clegg does not continue to chair this influential cabinet committee if the two parties find themselves manacled together again after the 2015 general election. The trouble is, Clegg would likely want to hold onto this job above all others, as it gives him so much power.

Some Conservatives had already decided that the only way they could do what they thought was right was to effectively burrow under the fences that Clegg put up on this committee. Dominic Cummings, who was until recently Michael Gove’s adviser in the Education department, tells me that:

‘Gove’s team could not have accomplished all it has unless it had flouted the Whitehall rules and ignored the Home Affairs Committee against the wishes of Downing Street.’

This certainly sent the Lib Dems into a spin at the time: Clegg and Cummings recently enjoyed a rather fabulous war of words in the press. But it also sent civil servants into a tizzy too. And as the Institute for Government argued this week, Whitehall officials would very much like more guidance on how to work with two parties that are increasingly pulling apart in the run-up to an election. But if there’s another coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, those civil servants will need to deal with two parties bearing grudges who increasingly try to break the rules if Clegg holds onto his prized HAC job.

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Show comments
  • Denis_Cooper

    Because their support is relatively concentrated the LibDems can win a significant number of seats even on a low overall level of support. They would have to drop down further from their present 9% to somewhere around 4% in the opinion polls before all of their MPs had lost their seats. Their present 9%, down from 24% at the last general election, would probably still get them about 20 seats, while UKIP’s 14% would still get them no seats at all:

    As presently estimated on that site there is only a 5% probability that the next general election will lead to a continuation of the present coalition but a 12% probability of a coalition between Labour and the LibDems; the probability of a Labour majority is given as 63% while the probability of a Tory majority is 10%.

  • you_kid

    Coaltion – yes, another coalition is coming right up.

    The most likely outcome of the GE 2015 is that:
    The right vote will remain split.
    Tories are toast. LibDems are gone.
    Labour get most seats but not enough to govern.
    The Greens are not elected anywhere yet appear to call all the shots today.

    This will lead to a GREEN LABOUR coalition.
    You heard it here first, as always.

    • HookesLaw

      So explain how the greens form a coalition withj 1MP at the most? One day you may start talking in english.

      • Inverted Meniscus

        No he will not. Fatuous attention seeking gibberish is his native tongue.

        • you_kid

          Chuzzlewitz – you will kid us not, not the you_kids.

          • Inverted Meniscus

            Just bonkers. Absolutely bonkers.

            • you_kid

              Chuzzlewitz, you always come out when I mention the crusties. Or did too many Baden Powell campfires scar you for life – what is it?

              • Inverted Meniscus

                You truly are absolutely barking.

                • you_kid

                  That is the idea, chuzzlewitz. Now what is it – crusty intolerance or Baden Powell campfire overkill?
                  This is kind of important – for you, not anyone else. To get you to move on, like.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …do you and the goat need the space, lad?

      • you_kid

        The Greens don’t need MPs.
        They are in government now. They are in government no matter what. This curious but evident truism is never explored by any political commentator. Why not?

        Do I always have to come up with the goods? 😉

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …you mean, all your sockpuppets are “goods” ?

  • Smithersjones2013

    The Coalition has been much more of a success than anyone could have predicted when it formed in 2010.

    So success is the Libdems polling sub 10 per cent and the centre right of politics dividing allowing UKIP to become a serious challenger for ownership of the political right with Labour enjoying the possibility unprecedented dominance of the electoral landscape for decades to come as a result of that split. The Tories are on the verge of suffering another major setback on a level that has only been experienced in the 21st Century and that’s a success?

    Chances are after the 2015 election, in the wake of the lowest Libdem vote share in recent decades, Clegg will be knifed and seeking employment elsewhere and the idea of coalitions between the Tories and Libdems involving Cable or Farron as leader are a wholly different and far less plausible concept. However, the bimbonic Hardman doesn’t even consider this extremely likely possibility. Whats sort of risible analysis is this?

  • anyfool

    So we have a supposed powerful committee chaired by Clegg, totally ignored by Gove and the Education dept.
    Why would there be a fight about a toothless talking shop.
    This also suggests that the Tory mantra that they would have went further on cuts and Europe but for the Coalition, does not ring true.