Digesting the real outcomes of the recent elections takes time. A lot of commenting in the media has speculated wildly in a predictable pattern. The right saying Cameron is now stronger than ever; others saying Nick Clegg and the LibDems are done for; while some point to a new strategy for Nick Clegg and others point to a return to “old politics”.
If we did not know it already, the rhetoric of a “new politics” so often quoted by the leading members of the government is complete nonsense. What the Tory led No to AV campaign showed is that cynicism and negative campaigning with personal attacks are at the forefront of British politics and at the heart of government.
I stated after the elections in May that the real winners were most certainly the Conservative party, and I stand by that assessment. The wider effect though is more complicated.
Those that have sought to talk up the demise of the LibDems are being premature. The LibDem vote has indeed reduced to 15%, which could be seen to now be their core vote. Although, I do not think they will reach the 24% watermark seen at the last general election, I think they will recover some of their support, largely because the dynamics of government have now changed, and many will not have anywhere else to go in some constituencies.
Some have said that the demise of the coalition is now more likely, but in reality I think this is far from the truth. If Nick Clegg calls time on the coalition his political career is over and so is his leadership of the Lib Dems. He has only one option to him, and that is to get more out of the coalition.
Whereas Cameron’s political strategy has worked well, Nick Clegg’s has been diabolical. He put up a united front, not a a coalition but a partnership in the national interest. Thrashing out policies in private to have a consensual approach and a united policy front. This has worked into the hands of the Tories, as the differences have been masked and the Tories take the plaudits for policy and the Liberals take the flack from their supporters.
The change in electoral fortunes will see, and is already seeing, a significant change to the way the Coalition and the Libe Dems in particular present themselves.
Ironically, the outcome of the election that was excellent for David Cameron, will actually make his life harder and increase the power and influence of the Liberals.
We have already seen the flexing of muscles by Nick Clegg in recent days, this is largely a knee jerk reaction though. Over time we will see far more of the differences between the two parties and more spats in public as the Liberals try take credit for the Liberal side of cameron’s policies and where they have genuinely watered down Tory ideology.
Electoral fortunes of all the political parties are in the balance as the public are increasingly sceptical of anyone who asks for their vote. Some commentators like to claim if Cameron went for a snap election he would win a majority. But he needs the changing of the boundaries to help him get elected. Indeed if labour polled their 38% of the vote seen in May they could end up winning.
The truth however, is that the council elections are a snapshot in time and a chance to protest. This will continue for another 2 years as the cuts bite. Any percentages gained in the last election will not manifest itself at a general election. Labour would be unlikely to be able to get 38% if we had a general election tomorrow, and the Lib Dems may well do better than expected in the seats where there is no alternative to the Tory candidates.
In truth the most likely outcome of a snap election would be a dogs dinner and another coalition, much like we have now.
In the face of a 5 year parliament, the Lib Dems have an opportunity to really hold the Tories to account and show their metal. They now have nothing to lose.
The Labour Party has nothing to offer and their policies are increasingly moving to the right, so the only party who can really hold the Tories to account is the LibDems. Only now they have to show, more than ever, exactly what they are unhappy with. Gone is the consensus united approach, this will just not work.
The first casualty will have to be the NHS reforms. However, the astute amongst the electorate will note that it was Nick Clegg who tried to claim credit for the NHS reforms earlier this year, stating they were actually in the LibDem manifesto. How times change!!
The dynamics are extremely complicated as the government’s strategy among the liberals and conservatives is being put under scrutiny by events dear boy. Yesterday we heard that the 1922 committee gave un-wavering support to Andrew Lansley over NHS reform and how these reforms must go ahead.
This appears to be a direct challenge not just to Nick Clegg but also to David Cameron, and give him little room for manoeuvre. The NHS policy is a massive indication over the confusion within government as to how to formulate policy.
David Cameron has run his government based on a decentralised approach, without micro management. This has led to uturns and embarrassing problems with Forests; sure start, EMA and law and order policies.
Allowing ministers to go off and do their own thing is turning out to be a bit of a disaster for Cameron. One of his biggest problems is his fixation on the failures of the Blair government. He wants to get things done quickly while he can after Blair squandered his majority. The problem is that Cameron neither has the necessary mandate or majority and rushing through badly thought out policies is a recipe for disaster.
He also saw the special advisor culture as corrosive, which he is now back tracking on and employing more advisers.
David Cameron is a shrewd politician, but he is so often let down by the people he has around him, and the ideology, within wings of his party which will undermine him. Today we see that the right wing is attacking Ken Clarke after his inept performance yesterday. Perversely it is the left within the newspapers and commentators who are more sympathetic to Ken Clarke.
Which makes Ed Miliband aligned with the right rather than the left on law and order, more than ever before.
We live in interesting times and anyone who makes predictions over the fate of this government or who will win the next election are simply fools. The dynamics of government are intriguing. One thing is for certain, Nick Clegg and his Liberals have nothing to lose and must show their political nouse by talking up the differences and fighting for the people who actually voted for them. At worst they will get trounced in the next election, but if they don’t flex their muscles they will anyway. At best they may just save their political futures.