Coffee House

Coalition starts 2014 with exhausting round of bickering

7 January 2014

If George Osborne and David Cameron did fire the starting gun for the 2015 election campaign over the weekend and yesterday, then what will that campaign look like? Labour wants to say it will be a nasty campaign because this means they can talk about heir favourite bogeyman Lynton Crosby and Ed Miliband’s own emphasis on personal decency. And privately Tories in the know accept that it is going to be a rough and dirty campaign on all sides.

But in the past two days we’ve also seen a glimpse of what it is going to be like between the two coalition parties, and frankly, it all looks rather exhausting. George Osborne pledges to cut welfare further. An hour later Nick Clegg describes it as unbalanced. This morning we’ve got Vince Cable muttering about the Tories’ net migration target. Although letting off steam about your differences is important, the two parties can’t sustain this intensity of disagreement for the next 17 months without making voters think that they’re both interested in the wrong things. And yet they have to learn to differentiate.

I set out the most dangerous scenario for differentiation in my Telegraph columnrecently: a mutually-assured destruction policy of leaking letters that reveal one party blocking the pet policy of another. Some figures are more vulnerable than others, and if the bickering stays at this level, we might see more letters working their way into the public domain than either side could have predicted. But oddly the model differentiation department at the moment is one where the two parties have the most fundamental of disagreements: justice. Chris Grayling frequently sets out where he would like to go on human rights reform in a Tory-only government while maintaining a very professional relationship with his Lib Dem counterparts. Other departments spend their lives bickering, especially the Tories in the education department, who are often frustrated by Clegg’s interventions, as well as the time it takes for him to agree to anything. While these rows might be more interesting for Westminster observers than the cordial disagreements in the Ministry of Justice, if both parties are to have any hope of convincing voters to pay them any attention, they might want a little bit more of the Grayling model and less of the public bickering.

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Show comments
  • Makroon

    No Isabel, the media fired the starting gun for the 2015 election, around about May 2010.

  • alabenn

    +++Although letting off steam about your differences is important, the two parties can’t sustain this intensity of disagreement for the next 17 months.
    The intensity of Cable muttering and Clegg offering a mild comment of unbalanced, wow what a dangerous world you live in, your nerves must be shredded as you dice with death in the world of a thousand coalition cuts, the intensity of the bogeyman muttering and his groupie Clogg worrying about balance as he stares over the cliff of electoral doom, means your world of bitter internecine strife is too much, time for a lie down a glass of water and a tranquiliser.
    Only 18 months of this deathly struggle between two eunuchs that formed with Cameron what now appears a coalition of self interest on their part, their suicide will hardly be noted in the real world come 2015.

  • toco10

    Given Cable’s championing of the mansion tax from his £million+ constituency house in Twickenham where his neighbours dictate his fate and Clegg’s voter base in Sheffield it is highly unlikely either of these two pessimists will be in the next Parliament.As for the out-of-touch student Red Ed and his trades union masters they should apply for a place in one of Michael Gove’s new schools in an attempt to learn something of the real world.

  • Graeme S

    Please, Please No more Vince Cable ………….. He is a complete half wit given far too much credence from the media

  • David Kay

    The LibCons’, if they love their country, should put an end to the bickering and defect to UKIP

    • HookesLaw

      And if they did then with all their different views it would not be the same cosy xenophobic misogynistic UKIP. You would have to look somewhere else to vent your prejudices. Under a labour govt no doubt…

      • David Kay

        using the words xenophobic and prejudices just goes to show what a true socialist you are.

        Stay calm Hookey, and vote UKIP

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