If politics were to be compared with a meal, we have been served more courses over the last week than we could possibly digest but somehow I am still feeling unsatisfied.
When the news was announced on Tuesday evening of our new coalition government I was at first relieved but then after a short while started to feel uneasy. I could not work out exactly the reason. By Wednesday morning, I think my worries were starting to take shape.
The deal between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives seemed at first glance to be a major achievement. It had brought two parties together – albeit for the sake of convenience – that historically, had many opposing views. On the surface, it meant that both sides got at least some of what they had been wanting; David Cameron got to be PM and form a government and Nick Clegg would be able to claim his party was an almost equal member in that government by being awarded several senior posts and seats at the Cabinet table. So far, so good.
In reality, though, I started to wonder if the whole thing was as it seems. Nick Clegg has become Deputy Prime Minister but what exactly does that title mean? Does he hold any power in the real world or is he just a tokenistic gesture to the process.
Similarly, his own deputy, Vince Cable, has been given responsibility for banking and business which seemed to be a good move. He has, after all, gained a huge amount of respect over the last few years by speaking out against the handling of the economy and had warned of the abuse of a profligate banking system and the true depth of the recession we have experienced. But, he has much different ideas on how to solve those problems than the inexperienced government in which he now serves.
In effect, we as a nation have lost a genuine voice of opposition. Cameron has managed to ‘buy’ the compliance of what could have been the respected voice of a ‘party of doubt’. From outside government, the Libs could have checked some of the draconian measures of recovery being mooted by the Conservatives – instead they chose not to.
Labour, who are now the only effective alternative voice sitting on the benches of opposition, are still in disarray from losing their majority. They have no leader and therefore no credible voice to be heard – at least for the foreseeable future. Cameron has, ultimately, engineered a free corridor through which to introduce new measures with little resistance.
So, I wonder, did Clegg make the right decision for the country as a whole, or did his personal ambition and ego take over at a time he should have been thinking calmly and with the bigger picture in mind?
When it comes to the crunch, will he and his ‘ministers’ have a true vote in the process, or will they be silenced by their Conservative ‘colleagues’?
If Clegg has got it wrong, his party will never be a credible force in UK politics again. The irony could be that he could have gained more by playing the long term game in opposition, than he will by such a flimsy and precarious deal in government.
The British public have long memories and are not known for their forgiveness of such a folly!