Saturday, 31 July 2010

End of Term Report Card

As I came through the general anaesthetic last week (from key-hole surgery to repair some hip cartilage), I gazed through bleary eyes at the TV screen for some news. The Sky News ticker read: "North Korea threatens to invade South Korea". Next item: "Conservative MP criticises Coalition in Pub". It was a typical illustration of the media putting Westminster village tittle tattle on a par with a major international development.

Of course, the new Coalition Government is an endless source of fascination to journos and commentators. But as Parliament breaks, after the government's first two and a half months in office, what has it achieved of significance, and will it stand the test of time?

First off, ignore the tittle-tattle. No-one knows if the coalition will last a full 5 years. Selective pub snippets about the 'Brokeback coalition' leave me cold. Of course, MPs on both sides let off a bit of steam in private. That is reasonably healthy, within limits. But, as The Economist notes this week, the 'Big Picture' analysis shows a radical government making a solid start.

For me, the key moments since the election include George Osborne's ground-breaking - deficit cutting - budget, Eric Pickles firing off a gatling-gun volley of proposals to strengthen local democracy over planning, plus progress in delivering the Conservative manifesto commitments to overhaul welfare and pioneer schools reform.

No, it has not all been great - I believe the government made a mistake in opting into the European Investigation Order. And, sure, it is early days - the autumn spending review and proposals on constitutional reform will test the coalition and the country. But, overall, the coalition has made a positive start, evincing the three things the country needs most: vision, leadership and competence.


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