As the Python boys said, “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition”; but with the new [Public Expenditure Committee] body created and headed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to interview Ministers individually and scrutinise their departmental budgets – and termed the Star Chamber – you can imagine that ministers, after being grilled about their spending plans, might exit the Chamber and utter the same phrase. Then we have the Coalition Treasury ministers hard at work to resuscitate the dead parrot that is our economy and convince the international markets that it is not really dead. Chancellor Osborne is also copying the Canadian model of deficit reduction with its emphasis on public spending cuts; so we can expect him to appear before the Commons in a check shirt and carrying an axe, together with a chorus of junior ministers, singing “I’m a lumber jack and I’m OK”. It is all reminiscent of Monty Python’s Flying Circus famous sketches.
In the Inquisition sketch none of the instruments of torture work properly and the dead parrot has expired contrary to Michael Palin’s protestations. As the lumberjack’s song gets more bizarre the chorus fade away in disgust leaving him standing alone. We can well imagine all this happening to the Coalition Government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats that comprises Dave’s Flying Circus.
They are trying to do too much too quickly; undertaking reviews that require more resources than they have available. A Government spin doctor has admitted as much. They will run out of fuel before the five years are up and the runway is reached. The two co-pilots hope for a soft landing will be nail biting as they come in on a wing and a prayer. Except it is doubtful that they know how to pray. Pity the poor passengers – that are us. So adopt the crash position and put your head between your knees.
This Coalition Government is truly awful. It is a sham and chaotic, just like the sixth formers unexpectedly getting the opportunity to run the school. David Cameron and Nicholas Clegg have been labelled the Dedward twins of politics – without the sticky-up hair. Like Jedward, the X-Factor losers but less entertaining, they both lost the popular vote. All the political parties lost the General Election and it was left to the panel, guided by the Head of the Civil Service, to patch up a result. The Coalition Government does not have a popular mandate. Their manifestoes have been abandoned and the joint agreement for government has no democratic legitimacy. Many of the policies that they are now implementing were not in either party manifesto and some were not even in the Queen’s Speech.
When Dave got the keys to Number 10 it let Nick in through the back-door. It also let in another cowboy at Number 11, George Osborne who is slashing and burning his way through Whitehall. We have three bullocks loose in a china shop, causing indiscriminate damage with arbitrary budget cutbacks. This is not the careful and considered pruning of inefficiency and waste promised by Dave last February. Then he promised, “We’re not talking about swingeing cuts. We’re talking about making a start in reducing our deficit”. We can now see that rather than pruning the deadwood, they are also hacking at the trunk.
This union is not compatible and will not last the full five years. Befitting well brought up public school boys, they are ever so well mannered and polite. They will both tell each other what they think the other wants to hear, and then carry on doing their own thing. It is a marriage of convenience made in hell, what some might call an open-marriage, but Tory David Davis described as the Brokeback Coalition, with the emphasis on the broke, after the GAY cowboys in the movie. But as LibDem Vince Cable confirmed, “It’s a civil partnership. It’s not a marriage, but it is civil and it’s working well. It’s a great collaboration.”. They are still in the honeymoon period. The real test as to whether the union is broke or working well will come this Autumn when the spending cuts are confirmed and hit home next year.
It is the most unlikely coalition that one can imagine and is doomed to failure. There is one common factor. The LibDems are notorious for pursuing different policies in different parts of the Country. Depending on who they are targeting, they tell people what they want to hear, flying false colours. Within his own party Nick is known as Calamity Clegg for u-turning policy on a sixpence. Following David Cameron’s selection, as Leader of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party aired broadcasts showing him as a chameleon changing colour to suit his circumstances. The campaign failed and was dropped when the public decided the chameleon was cute and appealing, with Dave expressing his delight.
Labour might want to consider dusting off the video tape. We need to remember the chameleon analogy whenever considering the actions and behaviour of this Coalition Government.