This is a genuinely exciting political moment. It is the government the country wanted: Cameron, with Clegg; a fired-up blue Quattro, with yellow brakes. It is also uncharted territory. Cameron must now reframe the central narratives of his leadership—the big society, broken Britain, vote blue/go green, the post-bureaucratic age—to create a new “Lib-Con” narrative. Clegg must define his contribution to the government as specifically liberal; distinct enough that the government’s sum total is not the same as Cameron governing alone. The danger for Clegg was put neatly on Twitter this morning: Q: what would have happened if IBM had actually merged with Apple in the 1980s? A: IBM.
In short, this young government needs a theory: a narrative of its own, one which draws on that which unites Clegg and Cameron, but is also mindful of those wings of each party—the LibDem left and the Tory right—that is not comfortable with this unexpected shotgun union. Here are six things I would read to get a quick handle on this unusual liberal-conservative moment.
Giles Wilke’s “A Balancing Act” Vince Cable is going to have a big role in the future of banking, finance and probably public spending cuts. Giles Wilke’s paper for Lib-Dem think tank Centreforum gives the most through overview of what a liberal approach to rebalancing might mean. The narrative for the first year of this government is going to be overwhelmingly economic—this is the guide to how it might work. Nick Clegg’s 2008 “discredited politics of Big Government” speech This was one of Clegg’s first speeches as leader, at a time when he was marking a decisive break with the more social democratic policy inherited from Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy. He argues: “The big questions now are these: how do we make Britain a fairer place without raising the overall tax burden? How do we promote real social mobility without relying on the discredited politics of Big Government?” And while he is withering about Cameron in the speech, the deeper vision—free markets, free schools, radical localism, a smaller state—is the reason Cameron and Clegg just got married. The last quarter of David Cameron’s Hugo Young Memorial Lecture. This is still the most interesting exposition of what Cameron thinks the state is for,…