Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Is the structure of the coalition now compromised?

The Fink asks an interesting question today over on Comment Central: "Who will step into Danny Alexander's shoes?".

His point is that Danny Alexander was not previously just Scottish Secretary but also Nick Clegg's point man on maintaining the cohesion of the coalition from the Lib Dem side. he elaborates:

His job was to sit on Cabinet committees and work with Oliver Letwin on smoothing over policy differences and enforcing adherence to the agreement. Who does that now?

Alexander's was a real job, one that takes time, and he won't be able to combine it with being Chief Secretary. So his move leaves a real gap.

One has to guess, from the appointment of the junior Michael Moore as Secretary of State for Scotland, that Nick Clegg intends to do much of this work himself. But this might not work so well.

It may turn out to be the case that the real weakening of the Coalition will end up being the moving of Alexander as much as the moving of Laws.

Guido has also picked up on this theme today as he notes a mini-reshuffle of Lib Dem SpAds:

Alexander’s other SpAd, Alison Suttie, Clegg’s former Deputy Chief of Staff, appears to be out on her ear though as her old boss will no longer have time to mess about with Clegg in the Cabinet Office.

I think it is a mistake for Clegg to take on most of this work for himself if that is what is planned. He will have enough on his plate as it is driving through the political reforms and all his other duties as Deputy PM. The big advantage of having Alexander in this role was that he knows Clegg's mind better than most and was deeply involved in the original negotiations. However just because Alexander may have been very well placed surely does not mean nobody else can do the job?

I agree that his new job as Chief Secretary to the Treasury leaves him little time for the role himself but surely there are others in the Lib Dem ranks who could fulfil this function? Perhaps someone from the junior minister level. Or perhaps even from outside of the government. I can think of a few candidates who I expect would do a great job. Perhaps some Tories would have a problem with this, allowing another Lib Dem into a high profile role but they should look at the bigger picture.

What cannot be allowed to happen is for this forced mini-reshuffle to destabilise the government before it has even really got off the ground. That is not in the interests of either of the coalition partners.


Kalvis Jansons said...

I see what you are getting at, but it looks workable to me.

dougf said...

This imao, confuses structure with substance.
If you are on a ship bailing to keep it afloat because the alternative is going down with all hands, it is somewhat important who is co-ordinating, but what is REALLY important is that all hands recognize that they are,in fact, on the ship with no personal escape.
I'm sure that the Coalition will
function perfectly well with someone else doing the job for a period.
As Cameron and Clegg have said, the success of the Coalition is determined by the success of the Coalition. It's the will not the personality that is important.