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 But as he knew, this was, as Balls carefully put it, “out of date”.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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine