Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Last Thursday the cracks in the coalition government started to appear in the debate on prisoner's voting rights. Most of my side supported the ban, whereas our Lib Dem partners thought prisoners should have the right to vote. It didn't take long for the debate to become acrimonious. On days like that I wonder how long this forced marriage will last.
Further tensions have emerged this week over the Alternative Vote referendum which the true blue majority do not support, whereas our partners go to bed each night dreaming of intricate changes to the voting system. This May there will be fiercely contested local elections up and down the country, not least here in Plymouth and the South Hams where no quarter will be given. Will this spell the end to this rocky arrangement?
No. The sometimes uncivil partnership has some life left in it yet. It is obvious that the relationships at the very top of the two parties are very close. Watching my colleagues in the cabinet chatting with each other and laughing together as they frequently do, irrespective of party, is a constant reminder that at that level the glue still holds firm. Even in private conversation, the extent of the mutual respect comes through. We are in new territory here.
The government has set a blistering pace since last May. Tony Blair conceded in his autobiography that he wasted his first Parliament as leader and should have been far more radical. It is clear that the current Prime Minister wishes to avoid the same mistake. But uncertainty over the long term future of the cross-party arrangement is also a factor. Nobody knows how long this will last, so we'd better crack on with it. One of the reasons that politics is so fascinating at the moment is the level of daily uncertainty that is inherent in such unfamiliar political architecture.
At the very heart of the historic deal lies a recognition that the country is in a mess and we have to work together to sort it out.  Tackling the gaping deficit of £155 billion a year, getting the economy moving again and reforming vital public services are the priorities. The Coalition Agreement anticipates five years to put these changes in place. The Coalition may unravel before then, as the pressures from all sides intensify. But not, I think for another two years at least – long enough to get the main job done.

posted by Gary @ 14:28