Friday, 21 May 2010

Live from Whitehall, The Coalition. Forget Prog-Rock, this is prog(ressive) politics.

Lead singer David Cameron sat the first 20 minutes out, leaving his incongruous backing band to thrash out their solos on the platform.

First up, deputy lead singer Nick Clegg rattled through some familiar riffs – freedom, fairness, responsibility. He must get used to playing these big stages.

Next, Home Secretary Theresa May brought a bit of glamour, promising bobbies on the beat, cutting paperwork and more freedom.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, was having technical trouble. When he was due to take centre stage, a roadie was adjusting his microphone. Ms May offered to fill time by dancing, though it is Mr Cable who is more usually found twirling ladies around ballrooms.

In the awkward delay, Mr Cable joked: “We're making it up as we go along.”

Unfortunately this had the ring of truth to it. Flicking through the coalition agreement, where policy clashes have occurred the wording of the final statements are a fine blend of compromise, vagaries and fudge.

The vote on hunting has become a vote on whether there should be a vote on hunting. Lib Dem Chris Huhne’s energy department will draft the government’s pro-nuclear policy and he will then campaign against it.

And a pledge to freeze council tax for two years has become a one year commitment, while they will “seek to freeze it for a further year, in partnership with local authorities”.

Cutting the deficit takes precedence over everything, we were told again and again. Except, it seems, when there is a publicity budget to spend.

Towering over yesterday’s coalition press conference, at least ten feet tall, were two floor-to-ceiling billboards almost entirely blank but bearing the logo of this new politics.

Inevitably, it also had the mark of a design guru – a colon. It read: “The Coalition: our programme for government.”

The Coalition was written in green. Blue (Tory) and yellow (Lib Dem) of course make green. Keep up at the back!

Mr Cameron insisted it would be “churlish” to look for the holes in the agreement, when hacks should be focussing on all the things they could agree on.

The mood music may be positive now, but as the axe falls on pet projects and divisions emerge on key policies, Tory and Lib Dem backbenchers may be less willing to dance to The Coalition’s tune.

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