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JET — three letters that spell trouble for the coalition

10 March 2012

1:13 PM

10 March 2012

1:13 PM

JEET. That, according to Andrew Grice in the Independent, is the new ‘buzzword’ circling
around Libdemville (population: 57 MPs, and a few others). And it stands for the issues that they want to keep mentioning whenever they can: jobs, education, environment and tax. Fair enough.
Although it is striking that only one of these issues is unlikely to put them in close combat with the Tories. Both parties of the coalition support free schools and academies, and the Lib Dems are
getting their pupil premium too, so education is relatively uncontroversial territory. But as for the others…

Jobs. The conflict here focuses on the role of the state. As George Osborne’s support for the Beecroft proposals shows, he’d rather that employers were left to get on and employ
(or unemploy) as they see fit. But that sits uncomfortably with Lib Dems like Vince Cable, who describes Tory calls for greater labour market deregulation as ‘ridiculous,’ in a pugnacious interview
with the Guardian today.

Environment. Isn’t the environment a major Cameroonian cause? Well, maybe – but the Tories’ greenery has rather paled over recent years, as the economy has become their overriding
concern. Take Boris Island. The Prime Minister, once opposed to the idea, has now given
his ‘provisional support’ to it; whereas Nick Clegg is still not keen. And that’s before we get onto differences over energy policy.

Tax. We all know about the tax demands that the Lib Dems have been making over the past few weeks, and today Nick Clegg comes up with another one in interview with the Daily Telegraph. Of all the scraps
between the Tories and the Lib Dems this is that one that threatens to become the most poisonous. The Lib Dems are (again, according to Andrew Grice) trying to sell themselves as the true
‘One Nation’ party of the coalition, looking out for everyone, and the Tories as a party representing well-off vested interests.

As per Richard Reeves’ graph, it seems that differentiation is on the up and up.
Let’s see whether ‘government unity and strength’ goes down in reaction.

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