So there we have it, a full-blown Tory-Lib-Dem Coalition. David Cameron in office and his boy George already installed next door. Having read through several papers and been glued to the BBC website my first emotion has been anger at the Labour Party.
Anger that Labour Party MPs and Peers did not have the discipline to stay silent until at least the negotiating team had an opportunity to do their work; anger at the Labour negotiating team for being so arrogant as to not offer any real concessions to the Lib-Dems (particular venom here to whoever decided to send Ed Balls into the mix) and, most of all, anger that the Labour party just did not want it enough – after a strong grass-roots campaign, activists were let down by a parliamentary party that had got arrogant and lacked the desire for power the Tories clearly have, figuring some time for renewal in opposition was preferable to taking the hard choices that any future government would need to make.
Depressed at seeing David Cameron on the steps of Number 10 and feeling sick at the thought of George Osborne in Number 11. The Lib-Dems might have softened the blow, but still we are going to see drastic cuts to public-sector spending in this financial year – costing tens of thousands of jobs and untold misery to so many families in need; an unneeded and unenforceable annual cap on immigration; not to mention a patronising and regressive tax break for married couples. In short, regardless of the positives brought about through coalition, we should not forget that this is a Tory government and we should expect it to act as such.
And so to Clegg – Huge credit should go to him and his team for squeezing every last drop out of the Tories desire for power. 5 seats in the cabinet, the title of deputy PM and significant concessions on tax, education, civil liberties and, of course, electoral reform. But PR still seems a distant goal for the House of Commons and foreign policy, particularly Europe looks likely to be dominated by the Tory side of this arrangement.
So what is the long-game for Clegg? He is currently committed to a 5-year fixed-term parliament, but it seems unlikely that the coalition will last that long. Although his MPs are happy with the new arrangement, many voters and activists are far less comfortable, some have already jumped to Labour – expect more to follow. This alone could be enough to undermine confidence in the current arrangement. Clegg is a smart guy and would have calculated all this during the negotiations – he clearly believes that the opportunity to deliver some key planks of Lib-Dem policy will be enough to give him lasting change at the ballot box. Only time will tell on this.
In the meantime, people like me are rather left in limbo – willing the Lib-Dems to show they have not sold-out cheaply for a shot of power, but not yet convinced. A detailed policy document comes out later today, perhaps this will reassure us all.