Editorial: The big breakthrough is the Coalition's survival


For all the interpretation and re-interpretation swirling around the Coalition's much-anticipated mid-term review, its greatest significance lies in the fact that it happened at all. In the aftermath of the much-lampooned Rose Garden love-in of May 2010, the air was thick with predictions that the shotgun union of Tories and Liberal Democrats would be over by Christmas, if not before. And as the partnership continued, so did the prophesies of acrimonious collapse. Two-and-a-half years later, however, the Government is not only still standing, it is still functional – which is more than might be said for periods of the Blair/Brown soap opera.

For a country which, as Disraeli famously observed, "does not love coalitions", the past 31 months have been telling indeed. True, the ride has not been altogether smooth. On constitutional reform, in particular, the grown-up approach trumpeted by both Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister yesterday wore perilously thin. David Cameron's decision to allow his party to launch highly personal attacks on Nick Clegg, when faced with the chance of losing the vote on electoral reform, is especially difficult to square with the highfalutin rhetoric. So, too, is his swift retreat on Lords reform.

For all that, the accord at the top of the Coalition is striking. For both party leaders, finding a mutually acceptable position within the Government is not the biggest challenge. At least as difficult is maintaining the support of increasingly vitriolic backbenchers and party activists who see swindle and weakness in every bargain struck. Yet tiffs at the top and barbed indignation from the party machinery are part and parcel of coalition, as more sanguine voters in any number of European countries can attest.

Even the surprise departure of the leader of the House of Lords barely dampened the mood yesterday. The news of Lord Strathclyde's decision to pursue a second career in business was certainly strangely timed, preceding the all-star launch of the mid-term review by just a few hours. But attempts to suggest that the real motivation was either contempt for the Coalition or frustration at the obstructiveness of Liberal Democrat peers gained little traction.

Nor has coalition put a crimp on reform efforts. Naysayers warned darkly of an internecine stand-off, of fundamental disagreements that would stymie all progress and leave a policy agenda so hedged about with compromises as to render it worthless. Far from it.

The deficit-reduction programme remains the central tenet of the Coalition's shared identity. It also, by its nature, delimits all other choices. But it has been accompanied by a radical shake-up of the education sector, the welfare system, and also the NHS. Love such plans or loathe them, there is no denying their ambition; and their existence puts paid to suggestions that coalition is synonymous with political gridlock. The suite of new priorities outlined yesterday – from tackling childcare costs to capping social care bills to finding private money to invest in Britain's ageing roads – contained too few details to be much more than a wish list. But it hardly speaks of a Government locked in self-inflicted torpor.

If there were any doubt about the extent to which Britain has changed, it was Nigel Farage who yesterday provided it. At first glance, the Ukip leader's remark that, in 2015, his MPs could help form a coalition might be dismissed as merely the usual bumptious over-reach. Five years ago, however, the point would never have arisen. There will be more rows, of course. But Mr Cameron, Mr Clegg et al are to be congratulated on this at least: Britain might not love coalition, but we are getting used to it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn