Conservative Diary

« Child benefit issues give Ed Miliband victory at his first PMQs | Main | "We have to stop targeting that group, the people who just hit the higher tax rate." »

The Coalition is changing the Liberal Democrats more than the Liberal Democrats are changing the Coalition

By Tim Montgomerie

While I stand by my theory that the Coalition will trend Leftwards over time I readily agree with the conclusion reached by James Forsyth in this week's edition of The Spectator (not yet online). James argues that the Coalition and, in particular, the realities of government, are dragging Nick Clegg's party to the free market Right. He cites yesterday's u-tun on tuition fees, Chris Huhne's effective acceptance of nuclear power and, apparently, an openness to transferable tax allowances. His prime exhibit, however, is Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury:

"Alexander, a man who was previously not known for any economic views, has now become the government’s chief deficit hawk. This is, admittedly, a product of the job that he is doing — he has access to the unedited government accounts, and the various horrors they entail. (Alistair Darling once joked that it was almost enough to turn his eyebrows grey.) Clegg has been heard to complain that his former chief of staff’s brain has been taken over by Treasury officials. But it is hard to imagine that even back in opposition, Alexander will ever fully forget the importance of keeping the government’s books in balance. In next week’s spending review, every Lib Dem minister will have to sign up to — and then defend — cuts that they would prefer not to make. This will complete the crossing of the Rubicon that they embarked on when they decided to go into government. Never again will they be able to oppose with the purity and conviction that they did in the past. The Tories may have had their outlook moderated by coalition. But it is Lib Dems who have been changed for ever by it."

Pro-LibDemmery is taking hold at The Spectator. Peter Hoskin, the driving force behind Coffee House, has long been an admirer of Clegg. Fraser Nelson came out as a Clegg admirer on the eve of the Liberal Democrat conference. James Forsyth argues in his column that the rightwards shift in the junior coalition partners should mean that the Conservatives are the LibDems' natural future allies, dragging the whole of British politics to the Right. We shall see.

BOLES-COLOUR Meanwhile, there are some Coalition-istas within the party who cannot get enough of inviting left-of-centre politicians into Cameron's big tent. Overnight, Nick Boles was in The Guardian encouraging the enlistment of David Miliband, Andrew Adonis and James Purnell. No thank you Nick. Before any more roles are given to the great and the good of the Cabinet that did so much damage to Britain I'd like to see rewards for the people who toiled so hard for the Tories in the lean years of opposition. Jill Kirby of the Centre for Policy Studies, for example. Douglas Carswell for all his work on Direct Democracy. Stephan Shakespeare for his thinking on the post-bureaucratic age. They might not be such headline-grabbing appointments as a Miliband or Adonis but they're more likely to deliver conservative reform.

Cameron should remember that old dictum: Dance with the one who brung you.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.