Telegraph: Clegg and Cameron have to intervene in “daily” Coalition rows

The Telegraph has a story today that is rather perplexingly filed under “news” but seems like a summary of what we knew already.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg spend a “disproportionate” amount of their time attempting to resolve rows in the Home Office and Department for Education, in particular, sources said.

Disagreements have also affected policy-making inside the Department for Energy and Climate Change, while rows between Lib Dem and Tory ministers from different departments are a frequent feature of government life, sources said.

The difference in tone between the two sources quoted is interesting. The Tory source is snarky as anything:

It’s a badge of honour if Clegg is whinging about us,” the source said. “The truth is we get things done and Clegg doesn’t like that.

He can waste time on political squabbles and trying to shore up his vote if he likes, but we will carry on sorting out the education system so children have a better future.

Somebody seems a bit rattled, if you ask me. There is a much more circumspect, relaxed vibe about the Liberal Democrat source.

It’s no secret that there are significant differences of opinion on education policy between Nick Clegg and Michael Gove. It’s not personal. Those differences are sincerely held and they are more often than not resolved.

But it stems from the fact that both Nick Clegg and Michael Gove are incredibly passionate about education policy. Nick takes a keen interest in it himself so it’s quite natural that a lot of issues cross his desk.

The source added: “In the Home Office, there are quite stark differences of opinion between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in general over Home Office policy. That was always going to be the case. They often won’t be resolved on any level below the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister.

If you want to look at dysfunctional government, I suggest you look back at the last two administrations.  Tony Blair and Gordon Brown had the fullest confidence in their Chancellors and were fully briefed on what they were doing at all times. The Tories were totally united on their approach to the Maastricht treaty. Aye, right. Remember the years of poison and carnage across the media.

It would be surprising if Clegg and Cameron weren’t having to deal with all sorts of issues across Government. That’s what part of their role is, after all. If there is anything useful about this article, it is its repetition of key Tory policies, like the Snoopers’ Charter and returning to “O Levels”, which have been spiked by the Liberal Democrats.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • ““The truth is we get things done and Clegg doesn’t like that.”

    The telegraph (and the spectator – seen all the pieces on their website about how it’s cold somewhere so climate change has now been totally disproved?) now operate in a completely fantasy reality of their own making. What they say should not be taken as indicative of anything at all.

  • Tony Greaves 5th Jan '14 - 5:42pm

    An interesting thing (I suppose, to dispassionate outsiders) is the way that new legislation has to negotiate the coaliton ministerial maze. There’s a Bill going through the Lords at the moment where serious proposals to get a positive compromise to deal with genuine problems with the Bill as it stands, which seem to have the support of both sides of the coalition in the Lords and also the department responsible for the Bill, risk being spiked by objections by a different Secretary of State.

    This kind of thing (with lots of variations) is not uncommon.

    People should not underestimate the huge amount of work that takes place by Liberal Democrats – both ministers and backbenchers – to improve legislation under the coalition. Because a lot of it takes place within the coalition framework, it’s often not recognised or understood by others, either within parliament or outside, and certainly not by the media (and indeed not by the party’s own media staff who take little interst in such things or in explaining them to the rest of the world).

    Tony Greaves

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 5th Jan '14 - 6:06pm

    Thanks for that, Tony. It is helpful to have that sort of insight into how things work.

  • @ Tony Greaves
    It’s informative to hear how hard it is for unelected citizens, to design and concoct legislation which is to be subsequently imposed, on other citizens who are under the sad illusion that their democratic voice matters.

  • Caron, the logic of your piece is that, despite being wholly different political parties, the lib dems and the tories are naturally capable of working with each other, the differences between them being less than the differences found within political parties.

    Is that what you meant to say?

  • @John Dunn
    It’s a bit rich to hear a sarcastic snipe at Tony Greaves when the Lib Dems’ House of Lords reforms were thwarted by the 2 big parties!!

  • Jayne Mansfield 6th Jan '14 - 9:02am

    It sounds like the sort of thing that goes on even when there is a single party in government.

    @ John Dunn,
    I would be more exercised by how hard I have to hold my nose and vote for a party led by Nigel Farage who continues to revel himself and his beliefs. The extreme Right are cock a hoop about his latest comments.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Jan '14 - 10:23am

    G, the nature of coalition government means that you have to work with other parties. This is not new. Liberal Democrats have worked with Labour, SNP and Conservatives in various national and local coalitions over the years. It’s not a judgement on whether one party is any better than another. It’s about being grown up and reaching agreement on a programme for government and getting on with it. Once you have done that, there are bound to be issues which arise and that’s when you need the leaders to sort it all out.

  • Frank Booth 6th Jan '14 - 2:28pm

    Making sacrifices in coalition is all well and good. However the Party’s objective should be to form a coalition with the Party that is most SIMILAR to themselves. Now in 2010, the only viable 2 party coalition was Tory – Lib Dem. Clegg should challenge the other 2 parties to move towards his liberal territory because then he would be more open to working with them. Instead he assumes that the other 2 main parties are equally different to the Lib Dems (how?) and wants to play piggy in the middle between them.

    There are obvious gulfs between the Tories and Lib Dems on the environment, Europe, immigration, law and order, schools, the economy, health, fairness, the press. What is the gulf between the Lib Dems and Labour? Differences I’m sure. But a gulf? I just don’t see it.

  • Caron, I simply couldn’t vote for a party that was comfortable working with the Tories. I could tolerate one that could hold its nose and do the minimum necessary at a time of national crisis, but to be comfortable. Ugh.

    I’m far from alone in this.

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