Browse > Home / Uncategorized / A review of the coalition agreement pt 1.

| Subcribe via RSS

A review of the coalition agreement pt 1.

May 21st, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized by

On first reading there is much to be cheerful about in the new coalition agreement. The agreement is visionary, it’s not just a New Labour set of tractor statistics with the language going one way and the policies in the other. There is purpose. It is possibly the first time in 13 years that a Government manifesto has shown any interest in freedom.

In the overview there is a commitment to safeguard national security, tackle the deficit, and do so in a way that is both sensitive to and aspirational for those at the bottom of the pyramid.  

To do this there will support for green growth, banking reform, welfare reform, tax reform, reform of the political system, education liberalisation, decentralisation,  and nudge politics.

That is the overview.


The detail starts with proposals for banking reform. This section leaves me a little cautious. There are some nice dog whistles, taking white collar crime seriously, which may also be a Parliamentary reform. An intent to improve regulation and mechanisms to insure against another collapse.

I am not yet though convinced our politicians are wise stewards of financial probity, expert in international financial markets who will do more good than harm in their tinkering. The banking levy reminds me a little of the various North Sea levies, the key difference is that the North Sea can’t up sticks and move to Switzerland. There is a similar problem with hints at micromanaging bonuses and bank structure.

The fundamental issue in the credit crunch was the mispricing of risk, deliberate or not. I’m not how any of these proposals ensure that market failure won’t happen again, but they may help pay for it.


The headline to the business section is a  lot of waffle about a fairer and more balanced economy, the Coalition it seems still feels the need to assert that the Government can direct the economy. It can’t.

The content though is mostly a radical string of anti-regulation  / anti-tax measures that should generally help more businesses thrive, with a sensible goal of reducing the time it takes to set up a new business and opening up government contracts and even the Royal Mail to more and different types of business input.

Many of Vince Cable’s less ingenious proposals have been reigned in. There is  for example a nod toward reviewing merger rules but not affirmation for political creteria to so.  


Ah freedom, welcome home. Tony Blair used to make entire speeches without a reference to individuals or liberty. Now we’re getting a Freedom Bill, and the proposal to scrap the Human Rights Act has been… scrapped. The section will not go far enough for some libertarians, particularly on the right to self harm in the pursuit of leisure. But for liberal libertarians it covers most of the most important bases on the database state.


The theme is decentralisation and engagement. Within that there is an enormous shopping list of specific proposals many of which involve removing contraints put on local democracy by the previous Labour and Conservative administrations. 

Abolishing the Standards Board, and allowing Councillors to vote down senior executive salaries should prove popular, planning reform, particularly of strategic infrastructure planning will prove more tricky to implement without sabotaging other goals like energy security.


More competition, better protection for consumers and curiously “harnessing the insights from behavioural economics and social psychology”. Which sounds a little like something David Cameron might have denied doing at university. What it means in substance in unclear, but there is a welcome nod towards thinking about customer service in the public sector.


Broadly we don’t like criminals but think the Police should be more accountable, and the usual confused authoritarianism over drink and drugs, an area where social conservatives dominate in both parties. Not a very inspiring section.


Continuity with Labour’s state socialism in culture, and no real evidence of significant reform in any of the other areas. It’s a brave government that stops media-friendly luvvies and national sporting heroes from claiming welfare. This government would rather fight the Taliban.


The government begins the long process of repairing relations with the military… whether such ambition survives the MOD’s translation of policy into projects however remains to be seen. Trident replacement disagreements are kicked into the long grass.


The burden of deficit reduction will fall mainly on spending cuts not tax rises. The aim is to do it without hurting the vulnerable more than anyone else. Methods to do this include focusing public sector pay restraint on the upper end of the scale and removing a small amount of middle class welfare.

It is  an unfortunate signal that this section is about the same length as that on the Olympics… particularly given it is the second priority of the whole document. What will matter here is the full spending review in the autumn. Until then the deficit debate remains smoke and mirrors.


Almost complete continuity with Labour, bar Liberal Democrat objections to nuclear. Much room for innovation from Huhne in the long-run, but it does not look like much will change this year.


The first priority in the shopping list is criminalising the import of illegal timber. In the 1980s it was saving the elephants, today it’s stopping the unlicensed mahogany hunters. Not something that sits easily with another policy of rolling back new criminal offences.

Otherwise the coalition is in favour of carefully slaughtering some badgers, but not whales, and wants a free vote on the method of terminating foxes.


Equality is good, inequality and discrimination are bad. Particularly if due to the circumstances of your birth

If you are from an under-represented ethnic minority you have a shot at an internship in Whitehall or an enterprise mentor. If you are white, poor and gay you do not. Although if you’re gay and Iranian you are now less likely to be deported, with or without your enterprise mentor. Nick Herbert will continue to lobby his Conservatives European partners to be more nice.


The Government would like Britain to play a leading role in an enlarged European Union, but defers leadership decisions on any major change to the British people through a referendum.

Given how far apart the parties are on many European issues this is not a bad basis for a workable compromise. It  also seems fairly clear from the economic situation that the major task ahead is for several nation states to get their own houses in order, not look to Europe for bailout without reform.


A section that promises to protect children from “excessive commercialisation and premature sexualisation”. Curtains for the Young Apprentice and much of the Channel 4 schedule I think.

The weakest element of this section is a refusal to recognise that the previous government’s child poverty targets need to be reviewed and a less relative measure adopted. The target distorts priorities and contains no recognition of the difference between inequality and poverty.


A pragmatic section that rules out the use of torture, seeks a special relationship with India, and wants Germany to have a permanent seat on the Security Council.

This is positive sign the Conservative party intends to move on from the Second World War, Empire, and a belief that Spooks is real. Will the Daily Mail approve?


A good section that sets an ambition to ‘throw open the doors of public bodies’, through a large range of measures to require the publication of public information. Sir Humphrey’s likely retaliation will be to highlight the cost of all this and demand more staff and spending to deal with it. Whether the cost savings encouraged by exposure offset this only time will tell.


Comments are closed.