one johnny neptune

Now the dust is settling…

May 15, 2010

I found myself, last Tuesday, in the lucky position of being in central London during the final frenzied hours of the denouement of the 2010 General Election. As I made my way past College Green, with it’s vast refugee village of journalists, up towards Whitehall and then on to Downing Street you could feel the tension and atmosphere growing palpably. My friend and I settled in the Red Lion pub, just across the road from where Gordon was finally writing his goodbye speech. You could have got drunk on the atmosphere in the pub, civil servants giddy at the day’s occurances were huddling round the telly.

The next three hours flew by, we saw Gordon resign on the telly and then saw him drive past the pub on his way to see the Queen. This was ‘really happening’ and right in front of my eyes. The lib dem and tory negotiating teams walked right past us, drunkenly I expressed my feelings toward them. Then police came and moved us back in the pub.

Then it was time to go back over the road, the new leader was coming, we could see him arrive.
here's dave

I tweeted my feelings on this at the time. My tweet simply said ‘FUck’

Over the next few days, initial feelings of despair at a Tory government dissipated as the first reports of how the coalition might work came out. The first draft of the ‘agreement’ was released and I found myself nodding to the majority of it. Civil liberty repeals! Green stuff! This is all good surely. Yes, there’ll be bad stuff but surely the liberals, with their “Minister for Biscuits” and “Minister for Cabinet jobs just to keep you sweet” portfolios would be able to rein in the most excessive parts of the Tory ideology.

Maybe this is what David Cameron needed to realise his ambition of pulling the Conservatives towards the centre. Blair had Mandelson and Campbell to help drag the Labour Party away from it’s left wing excesses. Two dark knights that you wouldn’t want to cross. Cameron had no-one to help him modernise – the tory grandees were still disciples of Maggie. The 306 seats the Tories won were clearly a ‘we want to trust you but you’ve still got too much baggage’ cry from the electorate. With the liberals on board pulling to the left David has enough of ‘his’ party on his side to be able to ignore the more rabid shoutings of his party.

But is it enough?

Just five days into the new brave dawn of coalition politics there are mutterings from the Tory backbenches that they haven’t been consulted on the policy reworkings. Several from the right are already beginning to voice their doubts on how the new policies can work. While the liberals have clearly given up more of their manifesto to come to a compromise there are those on the right of the Tory who think they should have given no ground at all. Certainly in the area of political reform.

The new proposal of 55% of MPs being needed to bring about the dissolution of parliament is causing consternation across all sides of the house. While 50%+1MP is still all that is needed to bring about a vote of no confidence, the 55% idea means that the ruling government can still carry on despite having lost a confidence vote.

Obviously the 50%+1 rule needed amending now that we are working under a coalition. When a party has an absolute majority 50%+1 works well, you need to have an element of the ruling party that has lost faith for the vote to count. Under a coalition, where the ruling party has less than 50% of MPs it makes for an uncertain parliament where the minor party in the coalition could bring down the Government whenever it pleases. As can be seen in Scotland, under a proper coalition government, you need 66% to win a vote of confidence, as the party share of vote is that much smaller.

So how best to resolve this issue? Maybe the ‘dissolution’ percentage needs to be not set in stone. It needs to be flux in a way that allows the system we currently have to be maintained but in a way that recognises that a largest ruling minority party has to lose some of it’s own support before dissolution can be acheived.

Cameron has come out and said today that 55% can be debated in the house. That it has taken only 5 days for him to have to backtrack on a ‘fixed’ policy does not look good for the long term running of the coalition. We have to hope that it can be strong and that the backbenches can be kept in check. Because if they can’t we will be seeing the events of last Tuesday a lot sooner than we thought. Except they won’t be as exciting.