Yes, ministers can disagree and the world doesn’t end

Better late than never, it’s worth highlighting Peter Oborne’s thoughtful piece on the politics of coalition which came out last month:

Cameron and his Liberal Democrat partner Nick Clegg have fundamentally changed the nature of British public discourse. For years, mainstream politicians haven’t questioned the dominant orthodoxy that robust argument is incompatible with good government. In particular, this doctrine lay behind New Labour’s humourless apparatus of strong central control. Those who spoke out of turn or questioned official policy were threatened, punished and if necessary eliminated…

We are already starting to take this courteous and civilised method of doing business for granted. We should not do so. Let’s try a thought experiment and suppose that Vince Cable’s off-message blast against City “spivs” had come from a minister during the Blair years – just imagine the panic, the vicious briefing, the character assassination, the bad language, the screaming telephone calls, the blackmail and threats, the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontations.

But the world has not collapsed since Vince Cable’s eructation, while the authority of the Government continues to grow. Indeed, voters appear to like the return of pluralism, Cabinet government and reasoned debate.

You can read the full piece here. I don’t agree with everything in the piece, including the reference to Cable’s comments being off-message (they were actually very consistent with what he and other Liberal Democrats said previously and subsequently) but it’s a thoughtful piece that shows more understanding of how politics has changed than many (still too many) in Westminster media circles.

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2 Comments

  • peter oborne doesn’t mention dissidents weren’t welcolmed under thatcher either. it didn’t begin with new labour. the so called new tolerance is not a choice its a necesssity . if cameron doesn’t allow cable and clegg to publicly disagree with the tories they’ll be even more in trouble with the voters than they are now. it was a nice attempt at spin though .

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