The coalition document has just been released. Apparently, though, it’s not the big one. A full document, covering even more areas, is going to be published “in due course”.
But now seems as good a time as any to decide just who got the lion’s share of the wins throughout this early version. Off we go…
This section, regarding emergency budgets, an “accelerated” reduction plan, early cuts, etc. might as well be a cut and paste from the Tory manifesto. Though the Lib Dems shared some of the ideas, and have ameliorated the worst excesses of the “early cuts” that have now been nailed on, it is definitely a CONSERVATIVE WIN.
Both parties were agreed that a Comprehensive Spending Review is necessary. But then again, Labour would have done exactly the same.
Where the change appears is that the Lib Dems had not promised real terms rises for the NHS. The Tories did. That got into the document. Counterbalancing this appears to be the Lib Dems “pupil premium” idea. That made it through.
Other spending reviews are also set in stone. I believe both the Tories and the LDs supported this. Trident, however, is going nowhere, and public sector pensions are to be scrutinised closely. That last one was one of Vince Cable’s favourites, repeated over the past 5 years at least.
It’s a score draw in this section.
The LD £10k personal allowance aspiration has a pathway in the document. The killing of inheritance tax threshold rising and a delay on the married couples’ allowance is also a LD win. So too is the measures on tax avoidance, and a switch to per plane, rather than per passenger, on aviation duty. This is a clear LD WIN.
Both the LDs and the Tories majored heavily on banker bonus bashing during this election, and it features strongly here. The LD idea of splitting the banks into retail and investment arms gets a token “independent commission” thrown at it, but that won’t come to anything. The Tories successfully got in their plans to basically just give everything to the Bank of England is not particularly exciting, but it’s still a very slight CONSERVATIVE WIN.
No doubt about it. LD policy nowhere to be seen. Annual limits on the way. Total nonsense, of course. Total CONSERVATIVE WIN
That this features at all is immediately a sign of a clear LD WIN. Though the fixed term parliament provision is way too long, the rest of it is stunning. Tories supporting referendums on electoral reform. A wholly elected House of Lords, by PR, is also an impressive victory considering the Tories were starting to back away from their years of supporting Lords reform. We might still get shafted by yet another “commission” that is going to report on this issue.
There are a couple of Tory successes here, but their tinkerings were so minor that they are nothing to the major reforms the Liberal Democrats look like they’re going to push hard for. So LD WIN it is.
Pensions and welfare
Lib Dems wanted to phase out the compulsory retirement age altogether, and that seems to have won the day. Tory state pension age increase is in there though. In truth, this is not an area I’m absolutely sure about regarding the two parties. It all looks very amicable though. Score draw?
Schools – clear Tory win. “Free schools” on the way, whatever they are. Yes, there is to be the Lib Dem pupil premium, but the money has to be raised from cuts elsewhere, which suggests the premium won’t be anywhere near as big as it should be.
Higher education – kicked into the long grass pending a review. Tuition fees definitely here to stay. LDs have arranged an abstention if they can’t get what they want. And they won’t. It all adds up to a CONSERVATIVE WIN.
Relations with the EU
Conservatives: Winning Here. The rhetoric is nationalist, the terms of engagement so obviously written by William Hague. LDs have gone along with it though perhaps knowing that, in truth, the Tories can’t actually do anything about the present arrangements. It’s a CONSERVATIVE WIN but it’s one that doesn’t really matter.
The “Freedom Bill” was always a LD idea. In fact, it was one of Nick Clegg’s when he was Home Affairs spokesman. There’s lots of solid pro-civil liberties stuff here. There is a strong civil libertarian aspect in the Tories thanks to the influence of David Davis and Dominic Grieve, so in truth the LDs can’t claim a victory here. Whether it survives the crushing machinery of government, which very much likes it surveillance, thank you very much, is another matter. I should call this a score draw, but the LDs have to take the credit for keeping all this stuff on the agenda in spite of 10 years of being constantly on the backfoot about it. A LD WIN. Just.
The most detailed section of the document. But it’s so easy to say you’re green. Putting any of this into practice will require serious balls in the face of business opposition. There’s genuinely a radical agenda here, from denying the third runway at Heathrow, to the end of coal-fire power unless Carbon Capture and Storage gets proven to be useful. It’s a combination of the best green initiatives from both manifestos, and so it should be a score draw.
Should. The Tories have won through on the idea of nuclear power, but hopefully it will meet serious internal opposition. Zac Goldsmith might lead the charge against it. At least, he should if past form is anything to go by. LDs have another opt-out to abstain, though some will defy their whip. It could make a very interesting parliamentary battle. Not necessarily in the Tories favour this one. Perhaps they should have kicked it into a “review” as well.
With that in mind, and because the Conservatives were such Johnny-come-latelys to the green agenda, I’m giving this a squeakily narrow LD WIN.
Of course, totting up the overall wins has little merit. Some sections are clearly worth more than others. But I’m going to do it anyway.
Counting the score draws as “1-1” it comes out as CONSERVATIVES 7 – 6 LIBERAL DEMOCRATS
You could come up with a clever system of weightings, but it then still depends on what weight you give to each thing. So I won’t bother.
On balance, I’ve got to say I’m fairly pleased with the agreement, especially considering the relative strength of the parties. There is a significant chunk of LD policy in it, and some of the Tory Win is not really all that important anyway. But still, if it keeps Bill Cash quiet…
That’s not to say I’m happy with the Cabinet. But maybe I’ll be more happy when the full list of ministers is revealed.