You may wonder why the (in)famous line from Monty Python’s film Life of Brian is the title of this blog post. You can see the original clip below – first 40 seconds or so of the segment but the rest is also very funny if you have that sort of sense of humour :
The Coalition is like that honest prisoner. It could have let itself off the hook and had an easy life by not introducing unpopular public spending cuts and extensive reforms which the previous government balked at. Members of the Coalition Front Bench do not need the money, that is not why they entered politics. I have previously blogged about this. Cameron said something recently which confirmed my sentiments; when he was asked by a journalist whether he agreed the next few years would be very difficult for the Coalition, he said “Yes, because I’ve made it so”. Now that is what we colloquially call “having a pair”, if not 2 pairs.
It is widely acknowledged, even by Blair himself, that he “wasted” the first term of his Premiership by not being bold enough with policies and reforms. He was frustrated to a large extent by his powerful neighbour at No. 11, especially towards the end of his Premiership. The Blair/Brown struggle and the fall-out from the Iraq War inevitably took a toll on the governance of this country. The people at the top took their eyes off the economy and the banking sector, they were caught like rabbits in headlights when the banking crisis hit these shores.
When Brown succeeded Blair in 2007, he had Ed Balls but not the courage to seek his own mandate by calling a snap election. He probably would have won it at that time and would still be in power now, probably until 2012 when the economy might have recovered from the recession and the banking crisis.
Cameron learnt from Clinton’s campaign line “It’s the economy stupid” as well as his two predecessors, he is making use of as much electorate support as early as possible. He started the big reforms – Health, Education, Welfare – and legislation for the unpopular public spending cuts as quickly as he could. He knows the polls would look horrendous and the Coalition would become more & more unpopular, he must listen to wider public opinion but he must not “govern by polls” and let the tail wag the dog. He became Prime Minister in a Coalition in the national interest and that he must remember at all times. He also needs to give the country time to see the fruits of the most ambitious and radical programme of reforms for 30 years and to give the economy and private sector time to recover enough so that, hopefully, in the 2014/15 fiscal year, he can say the Coalition was right and go to the country for a further mandate in 2015/16. After all, that is what politicians all aim for :- re-election.
Some say the reforms and spending cuts are ideological and not necessary. Well at least Cameron knows where he is going, and there is nothing wrong with ideologies, both the right and the left have them. But he needs to tread more carefully as the going gets tougher, he has already made some mistakes – some you can blame on the novelty of a coalition government, like coming quite late in the day to LibDems’ rescue over the tuition fee fiasco; and some on an inexperienced government, like bringing out the new Child Benefit policy in haste for the party conference without thinking it through. The press and media had a field day with both issues.
Whether you agree with it or not, HM Govt has set HMS Britannia’s course; there have been a few minor icebergs and giant Pledge tins along the way, then the tangling of Cable on the port side deck rocked the boat a little. However, it is highly unlikely that any crew would want to abandon ship and jump into the icy and unforgiving electoral waters any time soon. HM Loyal Opposition has launched a few hit & run raids and fired some ineffectual missiles made out of blank pieces of paper but better weapons are expected in 2012/13.
There will be big storms and icebergs ahead – the May 2011 Local Elections, the AV Referendum, the likely trade & currency war between US and China, the PIGS trouble in Europe, the actual cuts in April 2011, the ukuncut movement and unions’ unrest are some of the biggest icebergs ahead and they, coupled with the fickle currents and sharks of the international money markets, all make very hazardous sailing conditions. We need steady hands and nerves of steel at the helm. The Coalition may need to reset some waypoints or perhaps slow down (Plan B-rown), but on the flipside, it may even speed up if the going is good (Plan C-ameron!).
There are calmer & warmer waters ahead but it will get worse before it gets better. As passengers on that ride, we all need to “grow a pair”, and in the best tradition – ladies first.
Godspeed to HMS Britannia and all those who sail in her.