Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cable gaffe does not mean Coalition in trouble - just the LibDems

Vince Cable’s ‘gaffe’, and those of other LibDem ministers, has - as many commentators have speculated - shone a light onto some deep fissures in the ConDem coalition.
However, it is not between the LibDems and the Tories that this split has widened, but in fact between the social and the economic Liberals - between the ‘Orange bookers’ (including Mr Cable, himself) and the local populists. Now we see why those of us in Glasgow, have little or no memory of Mr Cable’s period as a Cooncillor. He just wasn’t that good!
His excessive outburst about Murdoch -  does he really want to wage war? - means it is the liberal marketeers - in both the LibDems and the Tories - who are rubbing their hands. And it is why they can still support the old buffer. How else could they allow Mr Murdoch to increase his stranglehold on the UK media?
I can’t think of any politician - of the right or the left - that thinks (in public anyway) that News International gaining unfettered control of another major media organ is good news for us or for politics. But to the free marketeers, anything that stands in the way of millionaire businessmen spending their money the way they want, is bad economics. And, despite all the arguments to the contrary, they are predisposed to let Rupert have his way. That is, those who are not already predisposed to suck-up to him anyway. Vince has now allowed this to happen.
To all those who speculate about Vince’s resignation, or enforced reshuffling and any consequent split of the coalition, I would point out the overwhelming desire amongst key LibDems to cling onto power at all costs. Even at expense of the party itself, which is now far more at risk. Don’t overestimate the loyalty of Clegg, Laws, Alexander et al.
Any split will almost certainly not happen for a while if at all. The illusion of power is probably the hardest one to wake up to - particularly if your party hasn’t experienced it in living memory. But this latest affair has exposed the differences between the Orangeers - Nick Clegg, David Laws and Danny Alexander et al - and those party members who grew up during the period of the Liberal (in particular) campaigns on local democratic issues.
The Orange Bookers have far more in common with Cameron and Osborne than their election pronouncements would lead anyone to believe. The BBC  in 2008 reported Clegg as advocating a huge increase in private sector involvement in schools and the health service. "Marrying our proud traditions of economic and social liberalism, refusing to accept that one comes at the cost of the other - on that point, if not all others, the controversial Orange Book in 2004 was surely right."’
He argued for the creation of schools financed by just about anybody - parents, charities or voluntary and private organisations, suggested radical reform of the NHS, allowing patients to be treated free in the private sector and opposed tax increases.
So, don’t be surprised that if splits come, they are in the LibDems, rather than between the LibDems and the Tories. But this will not, of course, mean a split in the government. Nick & Co will be as at home (maybe more so) in the Tory Party than their current abode. 
And don’t think that even this will happen soon. Vince has fed the story that the LibDems are a ‘radical wing’ in the coalition. It may be an illusion, but don’t bank on any LibDems waking up to it soon.  Power is - after all - what all those shiny-faced newbie party workers came to work for the party for!

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