Of course it will end in tears. All political careers / governments do – even those with the highest aspirations and initial levels of public support like the 1945 Government.
The question is of course “when” not “if”. However, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have been skilful to lock each other in at the start of the deal – promising 55% needed to bring the Government down in a vote in the House – on the face of it to avoid either party (although in reality would be the Lib Dems) cutting and running when the cuts programme to reduce the public sector deficit really start to bite. Although everyone has gone quiet about this 55% threshold since mid May following initial criticism on all sides, so may be Ministers have kicked it into the long grass?
Nevertheless, with Cabinet posts secured for Lib Dems and key votes such as on nuclear power where they are allowed to vote against the government policy, most serious commentators reckon this Government will last at least four years which takes us to 2014. So people who think “It won’t last” and “will all be over by Christmas” may be disappointed. There are always McMillan’s “events, dear boy” which could unseat it in an unforeseen way of course. Barring MacMillan’s events, public affairs practitioners had better get used to working with this administration.
So what are the key “rules of engagement” and general direction of travel of the Government? Taking the latter first: The key general direction of travel of the Government: Prime Minister Rt Hon David Cameron MP has said that the new administration will be united behind three key principles – freedom, fairness and responsibility. In political terms it is a right of centre coalition with some left of centre ideas thrown in by the Lib Dems. In terms of nitty gritty policy the Government wants to eradicate the public finances deficit (£163bn or 10% of GDP) over the course of this Parliament (2010 – 2015). Their strategy for doing this is by largely cutting public spending and raising a few taxes such as VAT. So far measures announced by Chancellor Rt Hon George Osborne MP amount to around 25% cuts to all departmental budgets except International Development and Department of Health / NHS. More in others eg rumoured to be more in Defra and DWP.
The newly created Office for Budget Responsibility has released figures confirming the government expects around 600,000 public sector jobs by 2015-16 as a result of the cuts so far announced. The Government say that more than this – around 2m – will be created in the private sector over the same period IF the economy grows at around 10%. Public sector workers have also had a two year pay freeze imposed upon them – effectively a pay cut as UK inflation is currently around 2% at time of writing.
Whatever the ins and outs it is clear that the UK is entering into a period of significant and sustained public sector cuts the like of which even Mrs Thatcher did not achieve.
Other key policies include:
• Scrapping ID cards
• Introducing new single welfare to work programme
• Introducing a cap on immigration from outside the EU
• Repealing “unnecessary” and illiberal laws
• Fix 5 year Parliaments
My view is that for all the hyperbole around new politics “lobbying” this new Government involves the same techniques as lobbying the previous ones. That is know what floats their boat before approaching. So with this government whatever you are lobbying for or against it MUST be either cost neutral or better still SAVE the Government money to help get the deficit down. In addition fortune as ever favours the persistent.
Footnote 1: At time of writing some newly elected MPs have still not got their offices sorted out with computers and phones plumbed in!
Footnote 2: The now ELECTED Chairs of Select Committees make them more legitimate and perhaps given them more media power?