Andrew Whitaker: The UK coalition and Labour have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo
THE high-profile rifts within the UK coalition government over House of Lords reform has led some commentators to suggest the days of the alliance between the Conservatives and Lib Dems may be numbered.
There may even be a school of thought among certain sections of the Conservative parliamentary party that an early general election would be a welcome prospect.
However, the leadership of all three main UK parties have very sound reasons for wanting the coalition to continue for at least two more years, or even to go the full course until 2015.
David Cameron’s strategy since day one of the coalition, back in May 2010, has been one of hoping that the return of the Conservatives to government after a 13-year absence will hand him an opportunity to detoxify his party’s brand in the minds of voters.
Mr Cameron is also pinning his hopes on being able to say he was the Prime Minister who sorted out the financial mess and put the UK’s public finances back on a sound footing.
However, two years into his term, he is presiding over some of the deepest cuts to public services in living memory and attracting all the wrong sort of headlines over ill-judged policies such as the pasty tax in Chancellor George Osborne’s bungled budget.
Were the coalition to collapse in the next year to 18 months, when the cuts are likely to bite even harder, Mr Cameron would not be well placed to win an overall majority at the election – something that the once great election winning Conservative political machine has failed to do for over 20 years.
For all these reasons Mr Cameron will be anxious to keep the coalition together for two or three more years in the hope that the political wind will eventually blow his way and allow him to face the electorate on more favourable terms.
As for the Lib Dems, any serious political strategist within the party must realise that its MPs are facing a pasting at the next election due to the decision to go into coalition with the Conservatives, with many Lib Dem voters having backed the party for being anti-Tory.
Nick Clegg, like all Lib Dem ministers, will want to remain in office and cling to his chauffeur-driven as long as possible, in the forlorn hope of being able to hold the balance of power at the next general election.
Labour leader Ed Miliband will also have reasons for wanting the coalition to rumble on. True, Mr Miliband has strengthened his position during the last year, having presided over a good set of local council election results.
However, he will be astute enough to realise that he has it all to do in terms of working to regain voters trust and may take the view that Labour would not be strong enough to win an immediate election.
For all these reasons it very much suits the strategy of all party leaders to have a business as usual approach for at least two years.
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