Friday, May 14, 2010

Coalition first steps

The policy agreements are published, the ministerial roles are distributed and the cabinet has held its first meeting. And the verdict? From me - mixed.
On policy, I'm delighted to see so many Lib Dem policies in there either as definites for this year or as aspirations over the next 5 years. I'm delighted that the detention of children whose parents are seeking sanctuary here is to be stopped. I'm disappointed that a grudging commitment to a referendum on AV is the best deal on reform for election to the House of Commons, but I'm pleased that Nick Clegg is given the task of looking at all aspects of reform for our Parliament. I believe that Lib Dem grassroots politicians will keep reminding him that there's more to life than a cabinet post and a referendum. I know that many people ridicule the post of deputy prime minister, mainly because of the way it's been handled in the past, but Nick has a real portfolio with the opportunity to produce real change in British politics for ever. That's not a non-job!
On ministerial roles, I'm disappointed that women aren't more fairly represented. It's not even true that they've got 2nd tier jobs while the men have 1st tier. There just aren't enough of them there, period! I know we lost some good women in the election but we do have others - where are they? I'm sure the Conservatives are asking the same (at least the women must be!).
On the first cabinet meeting - well, what did we expect? I was disappointed at the gesture of reducing their ministerial allowance by 5%. Does that mean that they're only asking 5% budget cuts from us in local government?? Not likely. It's not as if it's a pay cut for them. None of them had it before the election so a 10% cut would not have been excessive. I'm pleased that they were open enough to say that they've set up a committee to look at issues of difference before they become so bad that they split the government apart. That's being grown up about the problems which will inevitably be present.
Overall verdict - I can live with it. I'm not ecstatic but it's probably the best deal for the country. Some guarantee of stability and no chance of the worst Tory excesses being implemented. There's some hope that we can demonstrate that coalition government can work in this country and that proportional representation can deliver a sustainable way out of recession.

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