But well done that man. Watching David Cameron speaking before 10 Downing Street, I realised what a long way has been travelled since 2005. For a long time I didn’t think it could be done.

Of course, I’m talking about myself, and my achievement of being able to look upon another Tory prime minister without despair and loathing.  Five years ago, I exulted at the defeat of the Conservatives -how I hated that ‘are you thinking what we’re thinking’ stuff! – and actively relished the idea of them tearing themselves to bits.  I readily dismissed criticisms of Labour, thought little of the Lib Dems, and saw the Conservatives in only negative terms.

Now I find myself looking at Cameron and feeling admiration for what he has achieved.  Of course, all this detoxification will mean nothing if the policies are wilfully nasty.* And much of their new liberalism may be a result of pressure from their newfound electoral partners.  And, yes, their willingness to contemplate reforms and compromise may reflect powerhunger and a terror of the disunity that more opposition would have brought.

But like Paul I find it very hard to dislike the man, and see plenty to admire in his recent conduct – in particular if Matthew D’Ancona is right and Cameron is as enthusiastic about this ‘new politics’ as I am.   I hope there is truth in what D’Ancona sees here:

Though he may not pull off the big deal, Cameron’s conduct in the past three days has done more to transform public perceptions of his party than anything in the previous four-and-a-half years of his leadership. The images of Conservatives such as William Hague and George Osborne trying to broker an understanding in the broader public interest has done the party more good than anything it did during the campaign, and will serve the Tories well in office, even if they now have to fall back on the daily uncertainties of minority government.

When the Lib Dem Fed Ex votes the right way, my even greater praise goes to Clegg, who has dragged his party up from 14% in the polls to sharing power. But in the meantime, well done David Cameron (and me).

* which must be distinguished from ‘forced by fiscal necessity into being tough’

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32 thoughts on “I never thought I’d say it

  1. I realise that politics makes hypocrites of us all – but you realise that this could ruin your party? You’ll never be able to campaign for left votes in Labour seats again, and the Tories will try and fuck you in coalition. And no PR.

    I’m under no illusion that Labour probably sunk any lablib deal on purpose (tactically, probably wise) and that the lib dems have been in an awful possition since thurs. And I also think that whilst Dave is more genuine than his party they are still awful. But I can’t help but feel this must go down hard for you – power at this cost may be too much.

    1. As that post of mine a few days ago (existential risks) implied, this may be in the interests of all the parties. Yes, huge risks. But again, for all the parties. If we are stuck with FPTP, then Labour might be able to have a field day. But if we are stuck with FPTP, aren’t the LD’s in big long term trouble anyway? 2010 was the biggest opportunity to break through, and Labour turned out to still be better at the tactical game, even with Brown in charge.

      1. You’ve got a referendum on AV.

        Which the Tories will pour money into campaigns to stop.

        And even if you get it, AV is as non-proportional as FPTP.

        I understand that LibDems want to look on the bright side right now, but it rather looks as if your parliamentary party lapped-up cabinet seats and got very little else in return for putting D-Cam into 10 Downing Street…

      2. How funny. The buzz in the office is that they got loads and loads of policy compromise, as much electoral reform as the Tories could realistically offer, and have been shafted on the Cabinet seats.

      3. I guess starting perspectives matter an awful lot on this one.

        We’re going to have to wait and see, basically. Maybe your guys can restrain the bastards quite effectively, in which case this could all be a very good thing given e.g. your own previous arguments about the need for cuts and who actually has the ability/nerve to make them – not to mention who picks up the backlash from the cuts.

        I guess it’s just too early to tell, really.

      4. Agree. & I think the love-in cements a deal in a weird PR way – if they break this thing up, the wedding photos will look terribly damaging. Which means we have a few years of this

    2. Er, we do have PR for the new elected House of Lords. Surely this is a massive step forward? No more ramming through of 42 days detention and other dreadful stuff.

  2. I don’t know if it’s in writing, but the coalition deal could be the shortest suicide note in history.

    Giles, I fear that you are very much mistaken. The Tories will eat the LDs for breakfast.

  3. I’m worried for the Lib Dems, but am still cautiously optimistic. Imagine Clegg taking PMQs when Cameron’s absent! That’s progress however you cut it, and the policy leaks seem positive.
    A lot will depend on how the “new politics” is conducted. If the Lib Dems are allowed to say “this it what we’d rather, but the compromise that has become government policy is this” and this becomes the new norm, then that will a) be a huge improvement in politics in general (won’t be able to claim that any policy is a panacea) and b) allow the LDs to construct a plausible narrative about what they’ve achieved in tempering the Tories.
    But if it’s all cabinet secrecy and solidarity, then LDs will end up looking like an adjunct of the Tories. If frequent, flexible coalitions were the norm, then all this “you’ve let party x in” would vanish. So I had thought LDs should only join coalition in return for full STV, so that coalitions become usual, and they wouldn’t get penalised for letting either bigger party in.
    We shall see.

  4. Well done to the LDs. A month ago most of the electorate was fed up, un-engaged and fearfully resigned to getting a Tory government with a large majority.

    We may now have a Tory PM and a largely Tory cabinet, but Nick Clegg and his colleagues have managed to tone down considerably the proposed Conservative programme. Before that first TV debate, who would have imagined that they could achieve this?

    The LibLab option could never have worked. It would have been too unstable and too reliant on nationalist parties with their own separate agendas, not to mention many hostile Labour MPs. The LDs explored this option nevertheless.

    Under the circumstances, I think the ‘progressive majority’ in Britatin should be very relieved at what has come out of such an inconclusive general election. 60% of the electorate now have the party they voted for involved in government.

    It seems that Cameron and Clegg are both able to compromise productively to find agreement, which is very encouraging. I also think that they are both completely aware of how badly the country needs stable and competent government to tackle very serious problems, and will do everything they can to make this arrangement work. Good luck to them!

    1. “We may now have a Tory PM and a largely Tory cabinet, but Nick Clegg and his colleagues have managed to tone down considerably the proposed Conservative programme. Before that first TV debate, who would have imagined that they could achieve this?”

      Beautifully put. Welcome.

      And one option nobody was prepared to consider was that Cameron MIGHT actually be more liberal than they realise! Stil, the proof is in the eating …

  5. Apparently, Vince Cable is to have responsibility of business and banking. Okay, BIS is established position, but Secretary for Banking?! Are we in Michael Foot drug-induced fantasy now?

  6. I just can’t understand this liking for Cameron – I actually dislike him more than his policies I think. I’m not sure why, but I think I distrust that PR man sheen and the excitement people in the media get over such people – one comes across so many of them in working life.

  7. Personally I really admire both Cameron and Clegg in many ways for what they’ve done.

    The internet has given us the ability to see which way those who are too young to vote think about politics and, to me anyway, it certainly looked like they prefered the Liberal message.

    I’m just hoping that the media and the older sections of the general public can drop their pre-conceptions of what they think the Conservative party will do and give the new politics a chance to flourish.

  8. Can we have more blogs on the theme of you congratulating yourself, please?

    Cameron has done all right in these discussions and arrived at the only outcome that provides both a stable and effective government right here and now. There still remain question marks regarding his character and ability, though…. and there are still a huge number of remarkably unlikebale and oily Tory MPs.

    1. I promise I will do many, many more such blogs. Expected in the near future:

      “How I predicted everything good”

      “Why my decision to join the libdems was a move of strategic genius”.

      “Sandals – the shoe of choice for 2010”

      I think the presence of oily Tory MPs is a good thing. Cameron likes using the far from oily Lib Dems against them, is the latest fashionable Westminster gossip.

      1. Don’t forget – muesli is the best choice of cereal and make sure you leave remnants of it down the front of your clothing.

  9. I’m really worried about the fact that the country now has Osborne as Chancellor – he is totally inexperienced and I think he is completely out of his depth in this vital job. How on earth will he be seen by the finance ministers of Europe and the US?

    Cable would have been a much safer pair of hands. Will he manage to develop a successful working relationship with Osborne? That is the clear weak point of this coalition and unfortunately, it is the area which needs to be strongest of all….

  10. I’ve just watched this video comment on the Times website from Daniel Finkelstein:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/daniel_finkelstein/article7123344.ece

    It’s clear that the LibDem party, like any other, has members with a wide range of often conflicting views. Many people disillusioned by the controlling nature of New Labour and its move towards the centre ground seem to have found an alternative in the LibDems. For them, the LibDems are a left of centre party.

    Some clarification of the party’s identity was always going to be necessary as soon as the LibDems found themselves with a real prospect of being involved in government. By doing this deal, the LibDem leadership has demonstrated that they see the party as a centre centre party.

    This statement has clearly alienated a lot of LibDem members who will migrate (or more likely return) to the Labour party. But, if (and it’s a big if) Clegg and his colleagues can make this coalition work, there will probably also be a lot of people for whom the LibDems will become a lot more attractive.

    Cameron has also made a very strong statement to his party by entering into this coalition. He has surprised, and angered a lot of Tory voters, but he has come across as professional, pragmatic and reasonable and this will have done a lot of good for the image of the Tory party among the electorate at large.

    But despite Cameron’s rebranding, the Tory party’s centre of gravity will continue to be to the right of the LibDems. Now, thanks to what Clegg has done, the Labour party’s centre of gravity will clearly be perceived as being to the left of the LibDems.

    All this has positioned the LibDems firmly in the centre of British politics, between Labour and Conservative and without the ideological baggage that these two traditional parties have.

    I think that this could be seen a master stroke by the LibDem leadership. I believe that the views of most of the people in Britain are really of the centre, certainly the under 50s. I also believe that most people do not think much about the old ideologies of the 20th century. Remember how Tony Blair had to more Labour to the centre in order to make his party electable again. And look what Cameron has had to do now. In general, I’d say that what the electorate want from a government nowadays is: competence, honesty, fairness and openness, probably in that order.

    This is exactly what I see the current LibDem leadership representing and it is how they have presented the party both during the election campaigning, and in entering into this coalition government.

    The one thing the LibDems still have to do is to demonstrate that they can govern competently. This is now the opportunity. If they can make this coalition a success they will have made the LibDem party hugely electable for a lot of the British public in the future.

    Really, for both the Consevative and the Labour party it is vitally important that this coalition fails and the country can fall comfortably back into the FPTP, two party mentality, squeezing out the upstart LibDems.

    Interestingly, the current situation desperately requires a strong, stable and successful government to deal with the economy and I believe that Cameron has a genuine sense of duty to the national interest. Will he do everything he can to make the coalition work for the country, or will loyalty to his party make him ultimately look for ways to sabotage it?

    I think it is Cameron who really has to make the choice between country and party.

    1. Thanks for this very interesting comment.

      “Really, for both the Consevative and the Labour party it is vitally important that this coalition fails and the country can fall comfortably back into the FPTP, two party mentality, squeezing out the upstart LibDems.”

      In a sense I agree: it is certainly more important to the LIb Dems than anyone else that it should succeed. I too marvel at how Cameron has chosen national interest over Tory interest – remarkable.

  11. Treasury growth forecasts that are over-optimistic + Public spending cuts that reduce economic activity = more business failures, bankruptcies, and job losses.

    Still, on the plus side – all this will drive up the rate of profit. Good news for the have-yachts, bad news for the have-nots.

    1. sorry, reduced economic activity drives up the rate of profit? I suppose until the economy is doing nothing, and the business world is making infinite profits….

      1. Less profitable firms are wiped out, others can be acquired more cheaply, workers are more accepting of wage cuts – that ammounts to the perception of an increased return on capital amongst investors in the short term.

      2. Sounds like a nice theory. Could you show me it working in practise? As far as I can see, national income falls when demand is cratered. Government deficits rise, and in some cases, like the 1970s, this causes them to increase taxes on capital. Do you see a great correlation between the return on capital and these things? Because as someone with a working knowledge of the FTSE’s performance over time, I don’t

  12. There’s more to the economy than the FTSE…

    The purpose of the Tory govt will be to secure the recovery for the rich – how else to stabilse the capitalist economy in the long term?

    Only months ago Vince Cable was issuing press releases about the dangers of rushed deficit reduction – now that the ruling class demands it, he’s signing up to the Tory agenda.

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