Coffee House

The coalition’s next big test

8 December 2012

With the political dust settling from the autumn statement, attention in Whitehall is turning to the mid-term review. The mid-term review is the last chance for the coalition to embark on further radical reform: any significant change not started in 2013 is unlikely to be bedded in by 2015.

I understand that the coalition parties are close to an agreement on social care. There’ll also be more details of the single tier pension in the mid-term review.


We also know that there’ll be a ‘Learn or Earn’ scheme introduced for the under 21s. There are also ongoing discussions about how to get more private investment into the road network. But, at the moment, no politically palatable way has been found to do this.

One thing to watch is whether there’s a Liberal Democrat backlash following the autumn statement. There’s a certain amount of grumbling from various senior figures in the party that the party did not get enough in the autumn statement, with much criticism of Danny Alexander who is seen by some Liberal Democrat Cabinet Ministers as a soft touch in negotiations with the Tories.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • barbie

    Some commentators think the Lib Dems will sink come the next election, some think this coalition will make them; we all have our own ideas and beliefs. For me, I don’t think they will be quite obliterated but will suffer significant losses of seats; the question is who will pick up those seats? Conservatives hope to be the winners, Labour are convinced by the polls they will take them. I don’t think either will get them, I think lesser partes may make a killing. Why? Well with the budget or whatever you wish to call it, calls for gay marrige to be legalised, demonising the poorest in our society and believing it’s OK to do it, there are lots of things that are making the electorate angry. Cuts, are if we are to believe what we are told, which I don’t, are a necessary evil, have been draconian for one section of society alone. The benefit system does have to be changed of that most of us know, but its how you do it that matters, fairness. People who have the least are already on the breadline, yet, foreign aid we are told is our moral duty. Well since when? I don’t recall any party telling us in their manifesto this would take place. But it seems we are to be inflicted with this burden whether we want or like it.
    Some blame Labour for their spending, which we all know was way out of hand, but lets be honest, mostly this crisis was the global one, with banks greed. I’ve come to realise none of the present political parties are fit for purpose, and certainly not fit to rule a country. We have some excellant MPs but they are far and few; the majority are there to help themselves, have a job for life and live of the fat of the land. For me its time for change, and that change will be UKIP, sink or swim, they offer honesty, openness and letting the country know where we stand. Whoever rules the day, they will need to be more fairer or they will rue the day once the masses get angry.We’ve seen it all before, nastiness and greed, and riots on our streets. Again it all comes down to fairness, but does this coalition know the meaning of the word, so far I’d say NO.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    It must be hard being a political journo at the moment especially the 99.99% with a stake in this feeble pantomime. What to write? How to dress up mediocrity as talent, torpor as vim and fear as certitude? We’ve got a 3 party system armed with a kaleidoscope of failed options limbering up to give it another shake and inviting us to peer in at their exciting new vision.

    Social care, pensions, roads, ‘Learn or Earn’ (it rhymes! – is that the senior liberal figures’ input I wonder?) gay ‘marriage’. Get those polling booths open now dave!

  • Bluesman

    There is no next test. They have failed.

  • Daniel Maris

    I think there’s a gathering mood here and probably throughout the country that the die is cast. They had their go…at best they made little difference, at worst they have performed more poorly than Labour could have been expected to. Nothing much the government is going to do over the next two to three years is going to make much difference.

    The only issue now is whether the economy does perform as badly as expected and whether people think Labour are up to the job of resuming office. Labour’s prospects are not helped by a Leader whose fuzzy edges make him less than credible and a shadow Chancellor who is tainted by his involvement in economic policy in Brown’s ill fated administration. If Miliband gets his act together and if Balls were replaced by someone more credible, then Labour would be unstoppable.

    How often have we had these “learn or earn” initiatives for young people? Government need to deal with the national emergency that is youth unemployment but through radical measures, not these half hearted, bureaucratic methods.

    There is plenty of productive work for young people to do at minimal additional cost, whether it be clearing out rubbish from rivers and streams, identifying diseased ash trees, underaking environmental surveys, acting as additional nurse auxilliaries, acting as police auxilliaries, promoting tourism in the UK, surveying pavements for dangerous paving, helping keep our wonderful historic Churches open for visitors, engaging in health education, leading walking groups for the overweight, growing healthy food on marginal land…

    There are hundreds of things that could be done that would be worthwhile and productive. Even if they are only marginally productive, it is better than employing people to watch Daytime TV which is what the benefits system does.

    We need to convert welfare benefits into wages for work.

    More than that we need to ensure that every child from age 12 onwards knows they can move into proper paid employment after leaving school or university (or other higher education institutions) for at least 2 years.

    This would require firms above a certain size (maybe 100 employees) being required to create the vacant posts necessary. The companies can then compete for the best through remuneration and other benefits.

    It is vital that students know they can move into paid work. It will completely change their outlook on life.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Achtung, baby!

    • TomTom

      Companies are hoarding labour at present Daniel Maris. There are lots of potential unemployed to be shed from payrolls once the banks cease propping up zombie businesses. You have no idea just how high unemployment will be going forward.

  • Colonel Mustard

    It’s all tinkering. Desperate stuff. It’s like a bloated committee meeting in the engine room of a listing ship, holed beneath the waterline and heading for the rocks discussing how they can make the passengers behave better and pay more for their tickets. On the bridge the wheel is in the hands of an unsupervised but grimly determined helmsman (Heywood) unflinchingly on course to God knows where and telling anyone who will listen that the crew knows what it is about and without them the ship’s officers would be lost. The Captain is nowhere to be seen because he’s down with the committee insisting that he has the right to marry the less than 6% of passengers who are gay. The purser is on the stern throwing the remnants of the ship’s sub-imprest and the contents of the safe into the drink.

    And it feels like being a helpless passenger. Wondering why the Hell you boarded the Ship of Doom and what horrors lie ahead. Through the portholes, keeping pace off the starboard beam a pirate ship and motley crew, we know who they are, shouting unwanted advice and criticism and promising that, if only we let them on board, things can only get better.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      It may be time for a mutiny.

    • telemachus

      Brilliant analysis Nico
      At least the first paragraph
      The second betrayed a lack of understanding of reality
      I know things will get better
      In 2015

  • telemachus

    Danny is like all Scots
    Intelligent but fundamentally flawed

    • Rhoda Klapp

      Three assertions, all wrong.

      • Austin Barry

        I think it should read:

        ‘Flawed Danny is, like all Scots, fundamentally intelligent.’

        • The Red Bladder

          Or even ‘Fundamentally Danny has flawed intelligence’?

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Why would they be grumbling? They’re sinking like a stone, and their days are numbered in government. And the Cameroons who coalesced with them are also living numbered days, and the temporary LD’s are only lucky that the Cameroons are too stupid to dump them and save their own hides.

    But I’m sure the LD’s know all this, and this charade of tittle tattle is just the Speccie lickspittle’s perfunctory smokescreen, thrown out to assist the Cameroons, making out that they’ve somehow been “tough” with their lefty brethren.

    • telemachus

      Their days are numbered full stop
      Grim one will look like a major success in 2015

      • alexsandr

        god that is depressing. Get rid of the useless cameron and we get the even more useless millipede. The recent by-elections have shown us the electorate think the whole lot of em are cr@ap

        As Fraser said, we’re doooomed, Captain Mainwaring

        • telemachus

          You will only have to suffer the lesser Miliband for a while before the charismatic one takes over

          • runskip

            No Way!
            The labour party are inept at removing sitting pm’s (Blair) and we’ll jest end up with panda eyes becoming even more of a laughing stock than that one eyed mong Brown ever was

            • telemachus

              Miliband is not Blair and frankly is only there to bring the 2015 prize in.
              Ed Balls will support him til then
              Then he, Yvette and Andy will have a putch

              • Faintly surprised

                In which case the country will be screwed for a generation.

              • barbie

                don’t wish that on the nation, we are depressed enough.

          • HJ777

            There’s another Miliband we’ve not yet heard of, is there?

            In which case, how do you know that he/she is charismatic?

            • telemachus

              The Charismatic One
              Don’t be obtuse

              • Hexhamgeezer

                Joe Stalin?

                • telemachus

                  Sadly he is in Heaven

                • TomTom

                  Actually he is in 2 metres of concrete ourside the Kremlin Wall and as a Communist he has no concept of heaven merely living hell

          • barbie

            I don’t agree, the older Miliband has missed his chance, to come back after all of us seeing his useless brother, will make the Milband name hard to accept again. May be we need pastures new, like UKIP.

          • TomTom

            You really think there will be a Fuehrer ? True, Oswald Mosley was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in a Labour Government….

    • mikewaller

      As I have remarked on another thread, this line of reasoning is a million miles wide of the mark. As far as I can recall, this country has had four episodes of Coalition, ignoring the Lib/Lab pack, These were during the latter half of WWI and the period of crisis after it, during the Great Depression, WW2, and the present situation. Making this point to the electorate should have been a wonderful opportunity for getting it into the voters’ heads that the party is very much over i.e. the age of welfarism is coming to an end and the State is no longer in a position to solve everybody’s problems. Indeed, the facts that the Coalition is between two such unlikely bedfellows and that Clegg only decided to sign up having been told the horrifying facts by the Governor of the Bank of England should have been rammed home as overwhelming evidence as to just how bad the situation is.

      Instead, we have had the kind of childish nonsense of which the above is typical.I do not think that the modern electorate is any more sophisticated than the millions who cheered Chamberlain when he came back from Munich and declared “peace in our time”. As a result, right wing pipe dreams about stiffing the LDs and then securing a mandate for a “cut, cut. cut” Tory government are just so much rubbish. Far more likely is a return of Labour to power and they will spend us into yet more disaster. And whose fault will that be?

      • barbie

        So who do you propose should, could, rule the country, like yourself I don’t think we have any good in the main three, my preference will be ukip, but many don’t agree. I’ve looked at the Greens, and others and from them all UKIP comes out on top. Nigel Farage agrees on fairness with firmness, and that is the way forward. The rest are rubbish and have proved it by the day.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        So it’s better if the lefty Cameroons slouch toward spending disaster?

        And yes, the credit markets today control the level of spending, not the Cameroons. The Cameroons don’t care about deficits and debt, similar to their soulmates the Millipedes. Right now, you can have the Left, or you can have the other Left. That’s no choice.

        • mikewaller

          The best government for this situation is not the government that happens perfectly to fit your preferences. One of the things that we should be proud of is that (so I was once told) this is the only country to have gone through the scale of inflation we experience in the 1970 (about 25% at the high point) and remain a democracy. We now face a similar problem. Cut too hard and things could turn very nasty; too little and the economy will be destroyed by the outflows of capital. As long as the Coalition could be presented as a successful marriage of necessity reflecting the desperate nature of the situation, it was possible to push bigger cuts through and face down Labour. Sadly there have been too many idiots on the right rubbishing the LDs and thus destroying this vital back story.

          As for UKIP, they will be an absolute disaster. First, Farage is more like a slick used car salesman than a statesman. Second they will split the right wing vote; and third, it’s my belief that, like a yo-yo, the world economy will continue with globalisation until the pain it inflicts is too much for key players then it will recoil to forms of protectionism. Not the smartest time to be stuck out on your own!.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Well, who knows what the “best government for the situation is”, but I can tell you that it isn’t either of the 2 Left’s currently on offer (or 3 Lefts, as long as the 3rd one is still breathing, which shouldn’t be too long now).

            Saying there is a difference here isn’t the same thing as proving it.

            • mikewaller

              As I discount UKIP as a one trick donkey, the tree parties to which you refer are probably occupying the only spectrum compatible with the maintenance with democracy. What are you looking for? A small group of colonels?

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Something other than a monolithic Left?

              • TomTom

                You think Britain has a democracy ? you are weird

                • mikewaller

                  Yup, and I also think that: the bullets which hit JFK all came from Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun, the Americans actually got to the moon, and Arab terrorists took down the Twin Towers.

          • TomTom

            Britain is not a democracy and you will find Japan had high inflation too. British “inflation” was wage inflation for a short period followed by massive unemployment. Inflation does not cause dictatorship DEFLATION does

      • TomTom

        Chamberlain did not promise “peace in our time” but “peace for our time” and he was right. It was total stupidity to fall for Colonel Beck’s lies in MMarch 1939 and give him a carte-blanche from Britain to defy Berlin – as stupid as Berlin backing Vienna in 1914. All Britain did was save Stalin at the cost of the British Empire. As for 1914 Coalition – a wholy inept foreign policy allying Brtain to Russia and Labour exiting the coalition when Britain tried to depose Lenin in 1918 and Conservatives exiting in 1922 over Chanak. As for 1931 a Coalition because King George V flattered MacDonald. As for 1945 Churchill got short shrift when he wanted to extend “Coalition” from 1935 beyond 1945. It is a disaster but Cameron-Clegg-Osborne are only there to serve City interests. Oh, btw. How many of your relatives were happy to die in 1939-45 ?

        • mikewaller

          Where do I begin? My father was in the RAF throughout WW2 and never regretted it. My grandmother lost two brothers in WW1 but felt the same. Both were as convinced as I am that had we stood aside in either case, the result would have been a victorious Germany which would then have skewered us at their leisure. A choice between a Russian dominated East or a German dominated world is very unpleasant, but not hard. Indeed, from a narrow British standpoint, as communism was an experiment that had to be conducted, the way in which things have turned out could have been a whole lot worse.

          As for preserving the British Empire, you must be joking. Other than in the context of global war (which brought its own Imperial responsibilities), it was always a lot more trouble than it was worth.

          Finally forget the crap about the Coalition just being there “to serve City interests”. It has, of course, to treat the City with care, it is what prevents large swathes of our country sinking to near third world status at an accelerating rate. What the Coalition is actually trying to do is wean the country of extreme welfarism, pay down a huge debt whilst keeping the economy afloat. Lot harder that writing a few choleric contributions to this web-page!

    • Austin Barry

      The Coalition is surely Cameron’s first gay marriage, taking it in turns to bugger each other.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here