What a week in politics for the Westminster bubble, with the Iraq enquiry; Coulson resignation; Johnson resignation; the appointment of Ed Balls to shadow chancellor; the massive NHS reforms and Gove’s announcements on education. There has been a lot for the media to get it’s teeth into.
The Iraq enquiry is beginning to turn into a damp squib. I could only listen to a short extract of the Blair evidence, his voice grates too much these days, and most people have made up their mind anyway. A justifiable war?
One thing is certain this enquiry will not change anyone’s mind. It’s lack of transparency and it’s lacklustre questioning, hardly a forensic examination of the facts, just leaves people frustrated. I would love to be able to eat my words but I don’t think this enquiry will settle the issues either way.
The NHS reforms are the most far reaching in a generation just when everyone in the Conservative Party were promising no great top down reform. Will it be reform for the greater good or destruction for the good of a select few? Time will tell but it seems ludicrous to rush into such enormous restructuring that will cost billions of pounds when the whole public sector is so strapped for cash.
This is the great political carousel. We are into a new phase of stop go economics on a political time frame. The tactics are by now clear, rush through all the painful measure along the lines of the “shock therapy” ideology. Job losses; decimated services; blame game with local authorities; social upheaval; protests; demonstrations; slow economic growth; high unemployment; and then after a couple of years has gone by the economy begins to grow again and a nice tax cut before the election in 5 years time.
We have been here before of course, the “economic miracle” of the mid 1980’s just before the 2nd recession in 10 years struck the economy, but after a landslide political victory. This time the Conservatives have allies in the Liberal Democrats. After this mornings performance by Nick Clegg with Andrew Marr, apparently the NHS reforms were all the Liberal’s policies. That’s good to know because it wasn’t in the Conservative’s manifesto!
The NHS reforms are not necessarily a bad idea on their totality, but the speed of the changes and without creating the support it needs is simply reckless. But the most vulnerable in our society are the ones that as ever will suffer the most.
The politics ahead
So what about the politics? There is no doubt that this is the worst week for the coalition since the election. The loss of Coulson a key ally to Cameron and one of the few voices not from the Etonian classes. A clear lack of judgement has been shown and will be exploited in weeks and months to come due to the drip drip of information regarding the phone hacking scandal.
In addition, Labour losing Johnson will be a blessing in disguise. They lose an important human face in the shadow cabinet but gain a forensic economist to eat away at the coalition. This is good news for the opposition.
The right wing commentators and press are using the line that the closeness of Balls and Brown in the former government will be the achilles heel and it could even lead to a new split between Miliband and Balls. I don’t buy this.
Balls is not popular with the voters and will never become leader. The economics arguments of the coalition on the Labour economic record have little validity in the way they are portrayed, and Ed Balls will be far more on the ball (no pun intended!) when it comes to challenging the Coalitions assertions.
This could be the turning point for Labour and a sign of harder times ahead for the coalition. The honeymoon is over, and the real battles begin. The coalition is playing the big risk strategy as outlined earlier. The shock therapy will either produce a landslide victory for the Conservatives or allow a route back into power for Labour. I am not sure either option is that appealing.