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Coalition Government Relaunches: Does Anyone Care?

Posted on the 09 May 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Cameron and Clegg. Photo credit: The Cabinet Office

The background

The Coalition government “relaunched” itself this week after a hammering in local elections in which Labour won many seats. Prime Minister David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg went to a tractor factory in Basildon, Essex. They promised to do whatever they had to do to get the economy back on track. Meanwhile, Ed Miliband was in Harlow, speaking to largely Labour voters to prove that it was his party that was in touch with the people. After a disastrous budget for George Osborne, which was seen as cutting taxes for the rich whilst passing on, through measures such as increased VAT on hot pasties, more burdens to the poor, the government is having to seriously think about reworking its image in the public eye.

Meanwhile backbench Tories are pushing Cameron to become more hard-line blue, as they argue that voters are not interested in such issues as gay marriage and Lords reform, which the Liberal Democrats are pushing forwards.

Deficit reduction is the coalition’s primary target. So what has changed? Commentators largely agree that, well, nothing has. They have also contrasted the moment with when they took to power in the rose garden of 10 Downing Street – and their youth seemed to be full of optimism. Now, however, power is taking its toll.

We musn’t go down the French route

Who cares? said The Sun. The fact is, the Liberal Democrats are “the root cause” of most of the government’s failures. But it’s George Osborne making the Tory  party unpopular, with his tax cuts for the rich, and hikes on pasties. Yes, the pain needs to carry on – but “Cuts must BE fair and LOOK fair.” The government needs the people on its side – otherwise we’ll be heading for the lies of Labour again, as has happened in France: “Heaven help them. Heaven help us if we go down that road with them.”

“The coalition still has the potential to be one of the great reforming governments of the postwar era. The changes we are making in education, welfare and pensions are radical and right. The country will judge us over our full term and not on the basis of a turbulent few weeks of “here today, gone tomorrow” headlines.” David Laws, MP for Yeovil, wrote in The Financial Times.

What the party leaders think

Patrick Wintour rounded up what the two main party leaders were saying in The Guardian: Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, knows he has to do a lot more to gain votes; Cameron thinks he still hasn’t lost voters. He’s saying that what’s ahead is difficult – but he has to “hope” that voters “do not tire of it.”

Can we be reassured?

Cameron and Clegg had “little new to offer,” said Samira Shackle on the New Statesman’s Staggers blog. This “wasn’t about policy, it was an attempt to show that the coalition is in touch with the concerns of ordinary voters.” But how can anyone be reassured by this?

Don’t forget about gay marriage and Lords Reform

The objective of Cameron and Clegg’s visit to Basildon, said The Independent’s leader, was apparently to prove that the Coalition hasn’t been “wasting its time” on such things as Lords reform and gay marriage. Which is why they’ve targeted Essex – these are people for whom such issues are low on the priority list. Which means that the government can conveniently push them down. But the Coalition needs to get on with reform in both areas. And they’ve still got a long way to go on the economy.

The economy’s the only thing that matters

No change isn’t a “crowd-pleaser”, said Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph. But that’s what we’ve got. Clegg and Cameron still have their “charm” and “fluency.” And they can still win back voters. The economy is “the only issue that matters.” They must use the Queen’s Speech to show this – “nothing else matters except growth.” In fact, that “is what Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron should deliver. It is their only hope.”

PM and Clegg are going to ‘Relaunch Coalition’ and then tour with Steps.

— Rosalind Thompson (@rithompson) May 8, 2012

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