As readers will recall, I recently spoke about what was a dreary conference season.
For you Johnny Come Lateleys, the link is here.
Unlike UKIP who were in buoyant mood and showing off gains in the polls and yet
more defections, the other three conferences were unremarkable affairs.
The one notable policy from the Tories was a pledge by Chancellor George Osborne
to cut a further £10 billion from the Welfare Budget. It was exactly what grassroots
Conservatives wanted to hear and was doubtless met with much pounding on tables
in Conservative Associations across the land.
However there’s a problem. The Lib Dems, the surly lodger of the Coalition, have no
intention of signing off on the policy in its current form.
Clegg desperately needs a win, and letting the Tories push through a huge cut in
welfare will severely damage his credibility and heighten talk of a leadership bid
before the 2015 General Election. It’s especially tough for Clegg as the policy is
actually rather popular among the public.
So what is Clegg to do? Back a popular policy but enrage his party, or resist and be
painted as an out of touch woolly liberal addicted to spending other people’s money?
The answer of course is ‘neither’. They say politics is the art of the possible, and this
will be a case in point. There is no way on earth that Cameron and Osborne didn’t
see Lib Dem resistance coming. In fact I think they counted on it. The policy will
be watered down and Cameron and Clegg will come to a mutually beneficially middle
ground. Clegg will be able to portray it as a victory, demonstrating that the Lib Dems
are reigning in the worst instincts of the Nasty Party. Cameron and Osborne will be
able to prove their Tory credentials by at least trying to get the cost government
Labour will oppose the policy (just because they can), all three parties will go away
claiming to have won the day, and the great Westminster Circus will prepare for it’s
next stage managed scuffle.