In a coalition government, working together can mean some policies get left behind
NOW IS THE TIME that MPs begin to retreat from Westminster for their summer break (late July to early September). It is a pause for reflection and for one or two it is a chance to lick their wounds. In fairness, a chance to recharge is deserved because it has been a hectic year. For those of us on the fringes of the Westminster world, what never fails to amaze us is just how much this government is taking on.
There must be a temptation for a government made up of two parties, traditional rivals with only a small majority combined, to retreat to the areas of clear consensus and easy wins. It could be tempting to wait for the next general election and an outright majority, and then get on with their real agenda. This hasn't been the case.
Slashing central and local government budgets, involvement in two wars, ambitious reforms to welfare, an AV referendum, House of Lords reform plans, radical NHS reform, centralising government procurement and inviting charities to provide public services are just some of the strands of policy being rolled out by the coalition - and each on their own could lay claim to branding a government as reforming.
To take all this on at the same time is ambitious, some might even say reckless, particularly when the slimmed down Number 10 machine has been ill-equipped to check what is being pumped out. Transport-wise, we are currently in the midst of a flurry of policy. The South East Airports Taskforce findings are doing the rounds, the air passenger duty consultation is done, we are approaching the end of the high speed rail (HSR) consultation and September sees the deadline of the Sustainable Framework for UK Aviation scoping document.
Let's be frank: there are things contained in this raft of consultation and announcements, which large sections of the Tory party do not like. Blocking South East Airport expansion is one such area, while there has been a vocal campaign against HSR from a number of MPs along the route.
The question arises: how long can Cameron continue to antagonise his party in this manner? The reality is that this might well be the only time that Cameron can get away with not listening to his grass roots or his right wing because he has his Lib Dem partners to bolster him with centrist policies that he would otherwise have to set aside.
It is well documented that parts of the 'Cameroon' inner circle are not fond of their right wing hardliners. They are viewed as the 'toxic' part of the Conservative party that he has tried so hard to decontaminate his party's brand from. The right wing believes this can't go on forever. The Lib Dems are showing some backbone and for every concession they secure, the right's irritation level goes up a notch. It is a tricky balancing act, but what the Cameroons do seem to realise is that they need to get as much done as they can now - while they still can.