Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Looming election loosens the Coalition superglue


The prospect of an election 14 months away is having an acetone-like effect on the Coalition, gradually loosening the superglue that binds the two governing parties together. True, Lib Dem Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander, standing in for George Osborne, continued to respond warmly, if robotically, to Tory backbenchers lost in admiration for what ministers call, ad nauseam, “our long term economic plan”.

And he ritually accused Ed Balls of “spending a bank bonus tax 10 times over” to fund Labour’s plans. But as he knew, this was, as Balls carefully put it, “out of date”. After all, the shadow Chancellor was pressing him to agree that each party’s electoral plans, presumably including Balls’ own plan to raise £6bn with taxes on the rich, should be audited by the Office of Budget Responsibility.

Alexander then said this was “well worth further consideration”. OK, he said he “worried” that OBR would not be equipped for the job before the next election, which is the ministerial equivalent of St Augustine’s “Make me chaste, but not yet”. But it was very different from his Tory Treasury colleague David Gauke’s earlier dismissal of the idea.

Meanwhile, in a sinister development, Plaid Cymru’s Jonathan Edwardes spoke in Welsh. Well, only one word; but that is often how these things start. Called to put his question to the Treasury team, he said “Diolch [Thanks] Mr Speaker.” Does any regulation stop him taking this further? Can Hansard cope if he decides to make all his speeches in his mother tongue?

Edwardes wanted the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee to include representatives of the “devolved nations” and the “whole sterling zone,” including the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. Slapping the suggestion down because “monetary policy is not a devolved responsibility,” Tory Treasury minister Sajid Javid even had the backing of Balls, who had been shaking his head as Edwardes spoke.

Then it all fell apart. Asked by Labour’s Cathy Jamieson why Osborne had not appointed a single woman to the MPC, Javid began: “Appointments to the MPC should always be made on merit…” Cue shouts of anti-sexist indignation from Balls and shadow Chief Secretary Chris Leslie – Ed Balls’ Ed Balls – at the fanciful notion that no woman was good enough for the job. Javid was reduced to pointing out that four women had served on the committee – all of them Labour-appointed.

Earlier, Treasury Select Committee chairman Andrew Tyrie was disturbed to discover, while interrogating Bank officials, that recordings of MPC deliberations are routinely destroyed once the minutes are written. He pointed out that the Federal Reserve publishes the transcripts after a five year interval and urged Governor Mark Carney to review the Bank’s practice, given the recordings’ “historic importance”.

Not quite the Met shredding records of their corruption investigations, perhaps. But still rather shocking. And very, very British.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk