Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

They’re All Tories Now

Right then, cards on the table: I would rather we had done a supply and confidence deal. I’d rather we’d had a Commons majority, of course, but I’m not in charge, so we’re stuck with it and will have to deal with it.

Now that the details of the agreement between my party and the LibDems are emerging, it is becoming clear that we could well be in day two of the long slow death of the Lib Dems as we know them. Those that will be sitting with the Conservatives in the cabinet room are  by and large the Orange Bookers on the right of the party, who tend to align themselves (I think, albeit it in the vague and flexible way that we’ve come to expect) with the classically liberal/libertarian tendency.

We will see a stop to ID cards and, as Harry Phibbs points out, genuine moves towards localism seem inevitable – and this local councillor is quite happy with that, though I will wait to see if the LibDem “fair votes” push reaches as far as the Town Halls before adding a third cheer to that.

That David Laws – something of a closet Tory in my view – is taking on Education is not going to cause much of a philosophical tremor in the political firmament. As an unashamed supporter of grammar schools, I am agnostic on the choice between Laws and Gove, though I felt that Michael’s performance over the campaign was good and would still wish to see him in a decent senior post. [Update 15:10: Contrary to the rumours, Gove has been confirmed as Education Sec.  – fine.]

Clegg being Deputy Prime Minister has little practical significance – the post is largely a non-job in many ways, though PMQs will get interesting when Cameron’s away.

And while my regular reader will know that I’m no fan of Vince Cable, I am relieved that he has got no higher than Chief Secretary to the Treasury Business Secretary, though it does leave a very capable future Chancellor, in the form of Philip Hammond, in limbo. Whatever, Saint Vince will now have to put his political money where his mouth is. He will no longer be able to make his prophecies from the comfort of the minor opposition benches; he will now be expected to follow up his own soothsaying with action, and actions don’t always work. [Updated at 15:10 following confirmation of Chief Sec. being David Laws. My comments regarding Philip Hammond stand though.]

No, what is most intriguing is how the left of the Lib Dems – the “Dems” if you will – are going to react and, indeed, survive with the party no longer able to keep up the pretence of either equidistance or convenient blindness the Left/Right view of politics.

Here, the machinations of the Labour party will have a bearing. If a moderate takes over at the Labour helm, one could well see many from the SDP tradition returning to Labour. In the meantime, the broader ‘Conservative movement’ may find itself accommodating an even broader church ranging from UKIP to the remaining rump of the LibDems – a mini-spectrum differentiated only by views on Europe and occasional heated debates on education policy and other issues. A description which, quite frankly, describes the internal politics of the Conservative Party.

Reading the comments on the major LibDem blogs, all is not well among the grass-roots, and we could yet see the great irony of the LibDem story – that when they actually achieved their dream of coalition government, it heralded a return to two party politics, regardless of the introduction of AV.

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