Budget 2012: coalition blues (and yellows)
Posted by Matt Walker on March 18, 2012
The crucial narrative in British politics today is undoubtedly relations within the Tory-Lib Dem coalition. There is nothing like the euphoria of ejecting a rival party from power, particularly if they have been in charge for a number of years. And in May 2010, David Cameron and Nick Clegg would have been delighted to do so, and thereby find themselves sitting around the Cabinet table in Downing Street.
However, the problem with this coalition right from the start, has been the nature of the parties involved. The Conservative Party is a right of centre party, whose core voters require it to appeal to the middle and business classes to ensure it can win elections. Being conservative it strongly supports tradition, and has a strong sense of nationalism. The Liberal Democrats on the other hand, are a progressive left of centre party, which favours state support for the poorest, ensuring that the wealthy pay their way in terms of taxation, and is somewhat iconoclastic in its approach to constitutional matters. In short, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties are like oil and water, and don’t really mix that well.
A number of issues demonstrate this point, and I have written about the NHS reforms in previous posts. This morning’s Observer highlights further problems over this year’s budget. George Osborne wants to scrap the 50p tax rate on higher earners, and doesn’t seem keen to introduce a mansion tax on the rich, which the Lib Dems want. Osborne wants to keep middle class Tory voters happy, whilst the Lib Dems want to garner the support of progressive voters who want the rich to pay higher taxes.
There is some suggestion that Lib Dem MPs will vote against the budget when it is presented to the Commons. The budget should still pass, as with over 20 Lib Dems in the government the coalition will still have a majority even if Lib Dem backbench MPs vote against it. However, this does not auger well for Nick Clegg. And, as some wise sage once said, rebellion is a habit, and if Lib Dem MPs gain this habit their leadership could be in for a rough ride.