“Coalitions never work. Disagreement. Stalemate. Disaster.”
Smugly, Labour sympathisers think it will be over before we know it. Best to go it alone, some Tories said, and dare the Liberals to vote down deficit-cutting measures that could provoke economic and political turbulence.
But the Tory party itself is a coalition—libertarians, moralists and one nation Conservatives among them. And it has remained pretty united under Cameron, achieving the greatest swing for the Tories since 1931 in this general election. In fact, it seems as though the main reason the Tories didn’t secure an overall majority was that the leadership was fixated on managing the internal coalition, not reaching out to floating voters with substantial policies.
Just look at London. Almost everyone lives and works next to immigrants. Poverty is stark and visible. The gay community is sizeable. Doubt remained among liberal Londoners whether the Tory Party as a whole had really changed—whether they had embraced multicultural Britain, would support the poorest and were socially liberal.
They heard of the shadow home secretary wanting to allow B&B owners to turn away same-sex couples, of a Tory candidate believing homosexuality could be cured. And they kept reading that one of the Conservatives’ main policies was cutting inheritance tax for the wealthiest, yet they saw no financial support for the poorest, no living wage or a higher personal tax allowance. So Tory target seats like Hammersmith, Westminster North, Tooting and Sutton and Cheam stayed with what they knew. Only Richmond went blue—but voters sensed Zac Goldsmith was a different type of Tory.
It was a real shame. Team Cameron’s message of redistributing power to individuals and communities is what this country needs—to free public service professionals from the shackles of targets, to give charities the tools to transform deprived communities, to let passionate people set up schools, to give parents greater control over how they balance their time at work and with the family, and to hand greater powers to local authorities so people feel they could really influence the shape of their communities.
Yet, this hugely attractive argument about “people power” was diluted by the caution of the inner circle. They were fearful of taking it too far—of increasing the minimum wage, taking the poorest out of tax…