Wednesday, 12 May 2010

A Very British Coup

Two days ago I wrote that Gordon Brown's attempt to steal the election by partnering with the LibDems would be an undemocratic poltitical coup.

Today, it seems likely the prize for achieving a coup in British politics falls squarely with David Cameron.

Full details have yet to be announced of the concessions Cameron has made to his new Liberal Democrat partners, but in addition to five Cabinet posts they include twenty junior ministerial positions. That amounts to 44% of the LibDem parliamentary party.

The most interesting question—as yet to be revealed—is whether this coalition is a takeover of the Liberal Democrats by Conservatives or a takeover of the Conservative Party by David Cameron.

The first proposition is not hard to justify. The opportunity to lock LibDems into a five year parliament and remove substantial opposition in parliament to the Conservative programme is a political achievement without parallel by David Cameron.

The second proposition—that Cameron may have done as much or more to change the nature of Conservatism in Britain through the coalition government he has formed—has yet to be fully uncovered.

Cameron led a very insular policy development group in the run-up to the election and the grassroots party handed him open-ended trust that all would be for the best if it won the election.

The subsequent negotiations with the Liberal Democrats were even more secretive. We may learn that Cameron has conceded so much to the LibDems that the party he leads will find it hard to recognise Cameron's policies as Conservatism.

This could yet be revealed as even a coup in reverse, in which Cameron has willingly adopted a change in the philosophy of the party to reflect a broader liberalism, if not social democracy.

Either way—whether it is Cameron or Clegg who has shifted the most—we have seen a remarkable realignment in British politics in the space of just five days.

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