Leading article: Distraction will not be enough, Mr Cameron

 

Share
Related Topics

It has been an uncomfortable few months for the Government. The economy is back in recession.

The Budget was not only a fiasco in itself – the pluses leaked, the minuses buried – it was followed by a string of embarrassing U-turns as ill-thought-out policies, from fuel duty rises to pasty taxes, were disowned. Then there was last week's rebellion over House of Lords reform, a debacle which struck at the heart of coalition co-operation and left the Prime Minister open to charges of everything from disingenuousness, to weakness, to bullying. Mid-term blues, indeed.

Hardly surprising, then, that David Cameron hopes to use the brief hiatus before Parliament's summer break to draw a line under recent upheavals. And how better to do it than to shift the focus back to the economy? Not only might some big-ticket programmes draw public attention away from the feuds and emphasise coalition consensus on the issue that is, by far, voters' priority. They might also head off increasingly vocal criticisms – from the Confederation of British Industry, among others – that the cuts-obsessed Government is not doing enough to restore growth.

What of the measures themselves? The first came at the end of last week, with the launch of a Bank of England-backed project to pump more money into loans for businesses wanting to expand. The idea is an inventive one. But it is far from certain whether it will work. There is no guarantee that banks will participate, nor that there will be suitable demand, and previous efforts, albeit less sophisticated in design, have had little effect.

Hot on the heels of the "funding for lending" scheme comes today's breathless announcement of "the biggest investment in the rail network since the Victorian era". There is much to be welcomed here, both in the general good of transport spending and in the specifics of, for example, major capacity increases in the north. But the fact remains that a capital programme running from 2014 onwards hardly helps with Britain's current economic woes. Of greater promise are infrastructure plans, due later in the week, that are expected to set out ways to use the government balance sheet to encourage private sector investment, particularly in building houses. Given Britain's dire shortage of affordable homes, and desperate need for skilled jobs, the proposal has considerable potential. As with credit easing efforts, however, it remains to be seen whether a clever idea can be made to work in practice.

In the immediate term, though, the Prime Minister hopes the flurry of activity will steady the Government's wobble by proving that, for all the internal differences, the need to kick-start economic growth remains the Coalition's top – and undisputed – priority. Yes and no. It would certainly be easy to make too much of reports of fury on the back benches. Disagreements are, after all, an unavoidable feature of coalition. The problem is that the vast majority have, so far, gone the Conservatives' way, with only minor concessions in return. It is this that makes last week's fracas more than just a passing spat, raising the risk that the Liberal Democrats vote down Tory-backed boundary changes in return, and that the Government then descends into unworkable acrimony.

To predict the Coalition's demise would be precipitous. But it would, equally, be naive to think that the tensions will just fade away, for all the consensus on economic policy. The Liberal Democrats have fulfilled their side of the Rose Garden bargain. The ball is now in Mr Cameron's court. With Lords reform to return to the Commons in the autumn, he does not have long to decide how he will play it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

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...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

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