Conservative Diary

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Three cheers for the Liberal Democrats

It wasn't perfect - taking place behind closed doors and all that - but I take my hat off to the Liberal Democrats for the attempt to involve party members - the people who work so hard without expectation of office - in the decision to form a Coalition with the Conservatives.

On a number of occasions Clegg met his MPs and party officers in a bid to hear their views and explain what he was doing. Today's ratification of the deal will help bind the party into the fascinating Cameron-Clegg experiment.

What a contrast with the Conservative Party where there has been next to no consultation of the party membership. Coming on top of Team Cameron's various attempts to dilute Tory members' role in membership selection it is all very disappointing.

I have little doubt that the Conservative membership would ratify the deal but it would be kind of nice to have been asked. If we'd been asked I have no doubt that we would have said yes. ConHome's own poll on Friday found 69% approving of the Coalition. Perhaps it would have been even higher if the key facts had been presented to us. And the case for believing in the Coalition is strong. My five top reasons:

  1. Michael Gove getting an opportunity to pursue his supply-side revolution in schools;
  2. Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Lord Freud in charge of welfare reform;
  3. Nick Herbert tasked with implementing the police reform agenda he devised;
  4. Greg Clark able to reverse the centralisation of the Blair-Brown years that he analysed in his 2002 paper, Total Politics; and
  5. John Hayes and David Willetts in charge of the very exciting agenda they developed in opposition for a new age of vocational skills and apprenticeships.

All these policy revolutions have the potential to make life much better in this country.

"We're all in this together" is Team Cameron's catchphrase but sometimes it doesn't feel like it.

Tim Montgomerie


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