For a couple of days we had the media drooling over the new coalition of losers for that is what they are. Let us recap: David Cameron led his party into an election that they could not lose: end of a third term of a highly unpopular government; a severe economic crisis caused to some extent by said government and its long-standing past Chancellor of the Exchequer, later Prime Minister; a dysfunctional set of Ministers many of whom had been caught out in financial shenanigans. What more could the Conservatives want? Yet they lost. Not getting that majority was a defeat.
Nick Clegg and the Lib-Dims received more hype and publicity in this election campaign than they had ever done in their relatively short existence (nobody is going to tell me that this bunch of statists are the descendants of the great Liberal Party of the nineteenth and early twentieth century). They were going to change the face of British politics, they were going to beat Labour into third place if not complete oblivion, they were going to form the government. Well, the last of those turned out to be true but in a very different way from what had been predicted.
For, sadly, the Lib-Dims increased their share of the vote by a measly 1 per cent, lost five seats, did not take several seats they were confidently expected to do and did very badly in the local elections (not that it makes any difference). Their reward: places in the Cabinet and the Deputy Premiership for their incompetent leader.
While Gordon Brown was legitimately the Prime Minister - the chosen leader of the party that had won three elections - precisely who elected Nick Clegg to be the Deputy Prime Minister?
Reading some of the newspaper reports one would think that the coalition, which emerged from a week's sordid negotiations was the greatest thing that happened in British politics since the sitting of the first reformed Parliament or William Pitt's announcement in the House that there had been a British naval victory at Trafalgar.
All is changing, though. The serpent has appeared in the Garden of the ConLib Eden - the backbenchers are unhappy. It seems that far from thinking of the country's welfare or returning power to Parliament, as promised, or restoring trust in politics the new government's first proposal has to do with the preservation of its own position.
Naturally, Labour politicians are protesting but, apparently, so are some Conservative MPs. The constitutional expert, Professor Peter Hennessy
told the BBC the new rules “created a very poor impression for the new politics”. He added: “This is not the new politics, it looks as if it is very, very iffy politics indeed ... It looks all wrong.”I am shocked, I tell you, shocked.
This is all about the proposal that a vote of no confidence in the government should in future require 55 per cent of MPs voting for it instead of the traditional 50 per cent plus 1. This was proposed as a rule almost immediately but, it seems, the government has now more or less accepted that there will have to be legislation about it. At least, I think they accepted it.
This issue is a little more serious than it sounds. Votes of no confidence is one of the few remaining powers the House of Commons has over the government. Hard to use when there is a large majority it could be utilized to great effect in a hung parliament. So the first thing this government did after being cobbled together is to announce its intention to weaken that power even further. What we have here, in other words, is our old friend an executive power grab.
Do I hear the words "coup" or "unelected"? No, I do not, at least not from all those activists and self-appointed analysts who screeched about Gordon Brown being unelected (which was not true) or him planning some grant constitutional coup (which he apparently was not).
(Dear me, this is really disturbing. I seem to be defending Gordon Brown. That is what this blog has been reduced to by the ConLib shenanigans.)
William Hague's response to the criticism shows that whatever knowledge of politics he ever possessed was used up in the two biographies he published, of the younger Pitt and Wilberforce.
William Hague defended the move. He said: “Once you agree that there should be a fixed-term parliament, it is only fixed-term if there is some provision to really give it credibility to make it hard to dissolve parliament.”Has anyone agreed that there should be a fixed-term parliament? One cannot even argue that the electorate voted for it as it was not part of the main parties' manifesto or electoral campaign. Even if one did argue it, something of this kind cannot just be announced by a government - legislation is needed and it needs to be passed by both Houses of Parliament. It seems that in this session we shall once again have to rely on the House of Lords to protect our constitution and the few remaining parliamentary liberties.