A coalition of political parties governing our nation isn’t something the British public is familiar with. Our politicians will find it just as daunting and confusing. However, those of us who have lived part of their lives on the Continent and have seen how coalitions evolve and degenerate, can maybe (and hubristically) give some tips to Cameron and his team as to how to proceed and, crucially, what to look out for whilst in office.
1. If it is to be coalition, then it must be a formal coalition. This condition has been met and this is a good start. The external support option was only illusory in its feasibility. Many political leaders would love to be able to milk a government for all the concessions they can get whilst keeping their hands “clean” from any of the difficult choices said government has to make. It is agreed that this government will have to tackle the deficit with a series of unpopular cuts. Clegg and Cable could not be allowed to claim it was done without their knowledge or consent. Their hands must too be stained with responsibility and that can only happen if they had their seats in the Cabinet.
2. Don’t let the other guy push the envelope too much. In a coalition, one of the partners periodically feels the need to push the other. This is more often than not dictated by intra-party dynamics. If a number of Lib Dems feel they are being somehow pulled too far to the right on any issue and threaten revolt, then Clegg might want to make more pressing and more strident demands. Expect Trident to remain on the table as a topic of discussion - if not action - as this will allow him to show his followers he is still a Lib Dem through and through. Conversely, Cameron might find himself under similar internal pressure, especially from the right.