Andrew Grice: The coalition leaders may have bonded, but have their parties?

Share
Related Topics

The new government has achieved a lot in just two weeks. It would surely have taken about two months on the Continent, where coalitions are much more common.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have reached agreement on £6.2bn of immediate cuts, a significant U-turn by the Liberal Democrats since the election campaign which they struggle to explain in interviews. In return, Nick Clegg has persuaded David Cameron to adopt a long list of political reforms including a House of Lords elected by proportional representation and a referendum on the voting system for the Commons.

The coalition partners have reached a deal on about 400 policy areas, even if more than 20 tricky issues remain under review. Their long "coalition agreement", published last Thursday, meant there were few surprises in the Queen's Speech yesterday.

Despite the obvious need to compromise, the Government seems to have achieved the momentum Mr Cameron would have wanted if the Tories had won the election outright. Yesterday he reminded some Tory MPs of Margaret Thatcher with a forceful and no-nonsense display in his first major Commons speech as Prime Minister. "He is really motoring – determined, robust and resolute," said one aide.

His bonding with Mr Clegg is real, not for show. The two leaders find themselves instinctively reacting the same way when problems arise. They are very similar political animals. Their challenge now is to make sure their two parties bond too. Although no one is rocking the boat, there are signs that the "new politics" the two leaders want to achieve has not yet spread to their MPs.

Peter Lilley, the former Cabinet minister, was cheered to the rafters by his fellow Tory backbenchers when he made a witty but pointed Commons speech. While supporting the coalition, he made very clear that it was strictly a temporary arrangement and that the Tories would want to win more seats next time. Warning about the dangers of coalitions, he said: "Should they become the norm rather than the exception, they should give parties an easy excuse for abandoning manifesto pledges and a temptation to make pledges they have little intention of keeping."

Simon Hughes, a Liberal Democrat backbencher on the left of the party, asked the Prime Minister a less-than-friendly question about house-building, but the significance was that Mr Hughes referred to "his" government – Mr Cameron's, that is. The PM replied that he hoped Mr Hughes would come to regard it as "our" government.

Team Cameron is keen to integrate the two party's media operations to reduce the prospect of damaging splits, but the Liberal Democrats want to reassure their members that they are keeping the flame burning. Yesterday they issued a 23-point list of "Liberal Democrat policies announced in the Queen's Speech", including the four priorities in their manifesto – fair taxes, a fair start for children, a green economy and a comprehensive clean-up of politics.

Mr Cameron has said he hopes the coalition will succeed by its success. In other words, that it will win over doubters in both parties and among the public, although the early evidence is that people rather like the idea of parties co-operating rather than scoring points off each other.

Sitting alongside each other on the government benches yesterday, Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs somehow did not look like comfortable bedfellows – unlike their two leaders on the front bench. A lot of hard pounding lies ahead if the coalition is to prove a success.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Deputy Editor: i’s Review of the Year

Andrew Webster
RIP Voicemail?  

Voicemail has got me out of some tight corners, so let's not abandon it

Simon Kelner
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all