You certainly can’t accuse the Lib-Con’s of false modesty. They seem to have taken their lead from the M and S ad – the one with the lingering shots of gooey chocolate and the sultry voice over – ‘this is not just…’.
So this isn’t just a coalition Government, like the one that’s working fine in Scotland or in any number of countries on the continent. No, this – they claim – is an entirely ‘new politics’.
Their constitutional policies are not just a mix of stopping projects that were underway, retracting others and introducing some very sensible reforms. No, this – they claim – is reform on a par with the Great Reform Act of 1832.
Their coalition agreement was not just a set of compromises and commissions, mingled with policies from each manifesto. Heavens, no. This was, wait for it (cue the sultry voice over) an ‘era-changing’ agreement.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-confidence, but this level of self-aggrandisement tips things into another realm.
After 1997, Blair struggled to live up to the demands which go hand in hand with a landslide. With hindsight, expectations should have been kept on a tighter rein. This was certainly the case with education. We are a long way from perfection, but it’s true to say that what people want from their schools has accelerated faster than any rise in standards.
Clegg and Cameron have pulled this deal together quickly and deserve a pat on the back. It’s been helped of course by a meeting of minds; there is common ground in their own understanding of liberal conservatism. What brings them together is a move towards smaller Government and they will get much support for trimming back some of the excesses of the state. But, this makes it doubly-odd to make overblown claims about what their administration will bring about. You would think the days of smaller Government would mean a similar reduction in the claims about what will happen as a result of anything emanating from Whitehall. But, so far, quite the reverse.
They came to office without the pressure – or expectation – a landslide brings. There was a mood for change, but none of the parties were backed by the electorate to deliver this change. The Lib-Con partnership is a deal; an agreement. Time will tell whether it is an effective one, but just days into their partnership, they risk getting carried away with their own rhetoric and the excitement of power.
They’ll need to keep this in check. Confidence can become arrogance, passion can become pomposity and – as the latter days of Blair’s era show – a sense of certainty about ‘what will be’ can soon spill into hubris. M and S make the claims, but they back them up with the goods. Can N(ick) and D(ave) do the same? You know what they say about the proof of the pudding…