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Four new rules for making the Coalition succeed

Tim Montgomerie


I did Radio 4's Today programme this morning, reflecting on yesterday's Cable/Cameron drama. I suggested a few ways forward and group them together below... 

(1) THERE MUST BE NO DISAGREEMENT ON THE GOVERNMENT'S CORE PROJECTS: This must certainly include the deficit reduction strategy. The outside world mustn't see a cigarette paper of difference between Cabinet ministers on the determination to eradicate the deficit by the end of this parliament. Ideally I'd like to see a deep and enthusiastic sense of unity on the government's other two headline projects, too: welfare reform and schools.

(2) WE SHOULDN'T PRETEND WE AGREE ON THINGS WHERE PARTY IDENTITY IS AT STAKE: Although it's important for Vince Cable and other media darlings to accept collective responsibility on all things agreed as government policy, we should move into a new phase where it's sometimes okay to disagree. I recently wrote, for example, that I wish David Cameron would express his frustration at Coalition compromises on Europe, defence, crime and supporting the family. Lib Dems will be happier if they see 'their' ministers asserting their party's identity and I'd certainly like to see the same from Conservative frontbenchers. I was glad that, on Today, David Hall-Matthews of the Social Liberal Forum agreed with me on this. 

(3) DISAGREEMENTS SHOULD BE POLITE AND OCCASIONAL: There must be some ground rules for disagreements within the Coalition. Chris Huhne overstepped the mark when he likened Sayeeda Warsi's No2AV efforts to a "Goebbels" campaign. Did Cable pick the phone up and speak to Cameron's people before speaking to Laura Kuenssberg yesterday? He should have done. There must be some courtesy in relations and behind-the-scenes efforts at harmony before any dispute becomes public. There can't be too many disputes either or the government will look shambolic.

(4) FOCUS ON 2014/15: LibDemVoice's Mark Pack recently listed seven good reasons why he expected the Coalition to last. I agree with him. Key to it surviving and prospering will be a focus on delivering economic growth and less worrying about the fact that the government is going to get a lot more unpopular before a twin recovery in political and economic fortunes begins. The media will exaggerate every bump in the road on the journey towards the end of this parliament. The bumps should not worry us as long as we are getting closer to the point where the economy is fixed and we can offer the British people a good times agenda for re-election.

> Listen to the interview here (including my little joke about what the first thing Cameron does after he's kissed Samantha in the morning).


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