The Road to Hell

Deal or no deal?What a difference a few days make. On Friday, the Daily Mail had a photo of David Cameron on its front page with the headline, “Hand me the keys to No10”.

By weekend, it talked of shabby deal-making when it became clear that he had to agree terms with Nick Clegg if he was to avoid having to lead a minority government.

Come Tuesday, shabby had turned to squalid as it came out that the LibDems had also been talking to Labour, but the Mail was all smiles again today as the ugly duckling of shabby-dealmaking had transformed into the swan of an historic coalition that had swept Cameron into No10.

Throughout the hiatus, the feelings of outrage to political dignity prevailed on the radio phone-ins I heard, but to be fair, this was shared cross-party, in the spirit of the new politics with Tory supporters seeing the keys to Downing Street slipping from their grasp as the Labour partisans tried to slip them into their pockets. They universally agreed that Nick Clegg was a disgrace.

Setting aside my innate cynicism, it does feel as if some sort of new dawn has broken after the darkest hour. I was expecting some sort of woolly agreement with more get out clauses than an insurance policy, but Clegg appears to have got a very good deal for his party. And while we might poke fun at Cameron’s PR background, his is a profession that knows that you can’t sell a pup without a pedigree.

Compromise on public spending plans and taxation, a promise not to mention Europe and the Euro, the LibDems have bowed to the Tory manifesto on the whole, but five Cabinet posts is not to be sniffed at. The big test will be electoral reform, not just for the coalition, but for the whole concept of new politics.

The ones I feel sorriest for are the Tory left-wingers who suddenly find themselves in the middle of the road, while no doubt the right-wingers will become more and more marginalised. Beware the anti-coalition backlash!

As for Gordon Brown, isn’t it amazing how generous the media is when they are glad to see the back of you. Even Quentin Letts forced himself to say semi-nice things. And that is what Dave and Nick must remember — the arrival is always sweet and the leaving invariably bitter. The trick is to delay the one from the other for as long as possible.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

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