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A review of the coalition agreement pt 2.

May 22nd, 2010 Posted in Uncategorized by

Today the Prime Minister has been busy executing section 13 of the coalition agreement, leading on not leading in Europe. Sending a somewhat confused message that could be interpreted as a willingness to block eurozone countries from legislating to support the single currency, regardless of whether or not it involves the UK.

But analysis of the evolving new European policy will have to wait, there is still half a coalition agreement to review.


A liberal-conservative immigration policy was always going to be a curious pushmepullyou. On the liberal side an end to detaining children and greater focus on tackling human trafficking. On the conservative an annual cap on non-EU arrivals with a dedicated Border Police Force. Both want asylum procedures speeded up.

So everyone is welcome, until an arbitrary limit is reached, then not. But we’ll  let you know quickly, and the person saying no will have their own uniform.


More aid, more trade for aid, more transparency on trade.


Quite a radical promise to reform welfare and introduce a single welfare to work programme. Work clubs will be introduced, which if successful might mean the coaltion become responsible for reinventing working men’s clubs. A surprise for all of the parties if it happens.


Justice in future will be more fair. This we assume is an improvement on  being more just.

Sentences are likely to rise, but so will rehabilitation options, and there’s a sneaky tax rise on prisoner incomes to generate a victim fund.

The need to speed up the criminal justice system by properly resourcing the various stages from arrest to trial to prison to rehabilitation was something neglected by a Labour government more interested in headlines around new offences and numbers of Police Officers. It will not be easy to fix.


Dubbed the coalition’s primary responsibility this is the shortest section in the document, presumably pending the Strategic Defense and Security Review.

One interesting measure will deny public funds to any group that has recently espoused or incited violence or hatred. It is unclear whether there will be exemptions for political parties, particularly those in favour of invading other countries or demonising each other. That would certainly solve the conundrum of state funding for politics.


Labour’s myth was that more public money without reform would make the NHS the envy of the world. The coalition intend to test the other myth that all the NHS requires to thrive is less central control and more democratic accountability.

This is fine as far as it goes, but whilst we all remain wedded to the notion that all healthcare should be free at the point of use, incentives for health investment and cost restraint will remain difficult. None of the world’s best healthcare systems work like the NHS nor seek to.

There are a lot of measures in this section, mostly around decentralisation, some around cutting administration costs and quangos, some around new rights for patients to choose where they are treated. A a prescription for improving the NHS it’s all fine stuff, the problem though is the NHS.


A suicidally generous proposal to restore the earnings link to the state pension, with a guaranteed minimum of 2.5%, means, on top of an aging population, that tackling the deficit will be much harder. The default retirement age will rise, but only slowly. Public pension reform will also be reviewed, but locking in current benefits, which translates into large tax rises for our children whilst they pay more for themselves.

Rome was bought down by the spiraling cost of the army and persistent need to buy them off to protect the ruling classes. We have pensioners and the NHS.


Most of the items in this extremely long and radical list have been pre-released. Electoral reform, parliamentary reform, anti-fraud measures, all postal primary trials targeted at safe seats, making it easier to sack civil servants etc. Looking at this list it’s clear why Nick Clegg has taken reform on as a deputy Prime Ministerial role, there’s a big job to do and success is not assured in the teeth of opposition from Conservative back-benchers.


The Conservative plan to ensure more providers enter the education system will be mixed up with Liberal Democrat plans to better fund pupils from more deprived backgrounds. The fusion will be interesting, whether or not it delivers the ambition to ‘tackle educational inequality’ will be tested.


This section sounds like a really bad top shelf magazine for friendly perverts. It is instead about getting the third sector involved in public service delivery. The action in question is the Big Society Bank funding a little mutualism and neighbourhood groups involving 16 year olds. Civil servants will be appraised on their performance. The difference is clear.


There will be a commission, it will report. “We understand the urgency”.


The new principles of the tax system will be to make it more competitive, simpler, greener and more fair. Allowances will rise, as will capital gains tax on non-business assets, tax avoidance will be pursued rigorously.

Most of us will ignore the detail and see whether after a year of this Government we are paying more or less tax. We will have to wait for the Budget.


This is another area where there is strong danger of worthy ambitions meeting the reality of the huge costs they will entail, and politics leading there markets should be left to make decisions.

High speed rail for example is not a green panacea and makes little sense compared to flight in respect of cost per passenger mile. A recharging network for electric cars could mostly be delivered by the markets, but only when electric cars are affordable and battery life more effective. Rushing it will be expensive


A row postponed on tuition fees and probably a great relief for the market-wing of the Liberal Democrats who know the party policy makes little sense either in respect of properly funding universities or redistribution. More could be done to remove universities from state control, and there are hints this process will start.


The ambition of the the coalition programme is soaring, the detail a little more sketchy, and in some places could do better. It is not the small state, low tax, personal freedom agenda that would constitute a perfect result for this blog, but it potentially the best possible from all the potential governing agendas likely from this election. Left-wing Liberal Democrats and socially conservative Tories have been marginalised.

Politically there will be tensions in all the areas where we might expect there to be tensions between two different parties. But the attempts made to mitigate against this for stability have been extraordinary, particularly when we consider the expectation prior to the result of a Conservative majority. This may be a new British model of how to do Coalition government.

If the alliance can hold, and achieves even half this manifesto, what we can say is that Britain will be more free, less regulated, and more ambitious for the future. The economic battles to come over what to cut, when and how will be difficult, but the opposition is not yet in any sort of shape to offer a credible alternative. All in all a win for Britain and a win for liberalism.

5 Responses to “A review of the coalition agreement pt 2.”

  1. Ziggy Says:

    Where’s Mark Littlewood when we need him to opposed the proposed curb on the sale of cheap booze

  2. Philip Walker Says:

    some around new rights for patients to choose where they are treated.

    I think you’re underselling the potential of that line in the manifesto. It could be a damp squib, I grant, but at its most radical it could put the NHS out of business in favour of a wide range of non-state providers. I’m hoping that what eventuates is new private providers with innovative ways to save money and provide good treatment.

    All in all a win for Britain and a win for liberalism.

    Yes: not everything’s great about either the agreement or the Cabinet, but I for one would have voted for this coalition. The Tories and the Lib Dems between them are committed to decreasing the power of the State and doing so in a way which helps the poorest most. That’s got to be worth supporting.

  3. Jack Hughes Says:

    Look at what they do – not what they say.

    First action is to fiddle around with the price of booze. This is not the act of someone who believes in freedom.

  4. Niklas Smith Says:

    One interesting measure will deny public funds to any group that has recently espoused or incited violence or hatred. It is unclear whether there will be exemptions for political parties, particularly those in favour of invading other countries or demonising each other. That would certainly solve the conundrum of state funding for politics.

    Touché! I don’t think expanding state funding for political parties is a good idea – they will start ignoring their membership if you do that (as seems to be happening in Swedish political parties). And inevitably it will entrench an incumbency advantage because it would have to be calculated on the basis of seats held or votes won.

  5. Niklas Smith Says:

    High speed rail for example is not a green panacea and makes little sense compared to flight in respect of cost per passenger mile.

    Er, surely only if you ignore the cost imposed by pollution? And wherever high-speed rail operates it tends to outcompete domestic flights (look at the big fall in flights between Barcelona and Madrid when the AVE line opened for example), which would imply that it is preferred by consumers.