If we had been given a vote two years ago about whether we should enter the five year coalition agreement with the Liberal Democrats, I would probably have voted no. I favoured a short term fix followed by an early election.
I don’t much like the coalition. In the south west we have fought the yellow perils politically for years and do not care much for their campaigning methods. The difference in mindset between your average Tory and your average Lib-Dem can be worlds apart.
But here’s the thing. We did not win the last election outright. We might win the next election outright, with or without boundary changes, but the odds are against it. In the Conservative party we say we like strong leadership. David Cameron has given us very strong leadership on this issue. It is time to follow it. I have persuaded myself that it is time for me to stop whingeing about the coalition and start getting behind it.
In the national interest.
Those are not just idle words. It is hugely in the national interest to keep Ed Milliband and Ed Balls out of Downing Street. The global economy looks like it is heading for a hard landing and the Euro Zone crisis is likely to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. I have a growing sense that something very unpleasant is just around the economic corner. So we need a steady hand on the tiller at this time of global crisis. We need stability in government. We need to be able to look ahead for more than just a few months. We need to survive until 2015 and thereafter might even be in coalition again for a further period. We are fortunate to have a Prime Minister with all the skill set to do coalition well.
And is Clegg really so awful? I remember hearing his launch of his party manifesto on the radio of my car in April 2010 and I was well impressed. Let’s not forget that we did not win outright partly because of Clegg’s performances on the election TV debates. Many said he performed badly in the recent debate introducing the House of Lords Reform Bill (which I voted against) but as he was attacked from in front and behind in a way that I have never seen in 20 years I thought he did rather well.
So I have gone into the summer recess having made a half-way-through-the-year resolution. I am going to get behind the coalition more fervently when Parliament reassembles in September. In my heart this is not easy, but in my head I know it to be the right thing. The government has achieved a lot in the past two years and has some tough challenges to tackle. I will still oppose an elected House of Lords but other than that I will endeavour to support the leadership that comes from Cameron and Clegg. I am utterly convinced that a Labour government anytime in the next five years would be an absolute disaster.
I am going to learn to love the coalition and I recommend you do also.
In the national interest.