Stick with the coalition, quit or split?by James Macintyre / August 22, 2012 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2012 issue of Prospect Magazine
There was a joke going around Westminster in 2010, when the Liberal Democrats formed a coalition with the Conservatives. If you phoned Lib Dem headquarters, it ran, and asked for a copy of the party’s manifesto, the answer was: “Sorry, we’ve sold out.” At the time, even newly empowered Lib Dem Cabinet ministers allowed themselves a chuckle at the gag. Now, they aren’t laughing.
Nick Clegg is paying the price of his decision in 2010 to join in a coalition with a party with very different views from his own on everything from Europe to immigration to constitutional reform. It was a gamble, the consequences of which are now shaking the party.
The Lib Dem record in government has been mixed. There have been successes, such as the raising of the personal income tax allowance, which will increase to £9,205 from April 2013. The party also scored a victory when it managed to block Conservative plans for a cut in inheritance tax. There have also been successes in the introduction of the pupil premium, which commits more government money to the schooling of disadvantaged children; the restoration of the link between the state pension and earnings; and a plan, announced by Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury, to crack down on tax evasion.