100 days of the Coalition? Doing well for now
A verdict on the Coalition after its first 100 days of office? It’s a pretty meaningless concept but, nevertheless, one beloved of journalists, especially during the August ‘silly season’. On the one hand, The Independent publishes 100 days, 100 cuts, a idea straight out of magazines that that promise you ’50 ways to get that perfect beach body’, or worse. On the other, David Hughes in the Daily Telegraph argues that this feelgood Coalition is hitting all the right buttons.
My sense is that, for now, most fair-minded people continue to be willing to give the Coalition the benenfit of the doubt. David Cameron and Nick Clegg seem pleasant, plausible and well-intentioned whilst, as a result of his recent austerity budget, George Osborne’s stock as Chancellor has risen , much to the surprise of some commentators.
Of course, as the commentators also point out, stormier economic and political waters lie ahead. The outcome of spending negotiations between Government departments and the Treasury is still far from certain – Iain Duncan Smith, for example, has just won £3 billion to fund welfare reform – and strong claims are bound to come in from elsewhere, making it far from certain that George Osborne will be able to be able to curb the deficit on a ratio of 80% spending cuts versus 20% tax rises.
Talking of 20%, that’s also the new rate of VAT from 1 January 2010, which is likely to inflate pre-Christmas sales and depress the New Year Sales quite strongly. With a bonfire of middle-class benefits, as the Daily Mail put it, in child benefit and the like in the offing to fund welfare reform and sharp rises in rail season tickets, it’s not going to be a Happy Hogmanay for struggling, middle income families.
These, then, are just a few of the identifiable factors that could serve to blow the Coalition off course. The real political hazards, however, lie over the horizon, unseen and potentially unforseen.
David Cameron’s real test of competence will come in navigating a consistent course through them. Although 100 days of his voyage to the next election lie behind him, if he really does want this Parliament to last its full term, a further 1700 remain.
This milestone, then, is only the end of the beginning. Posing as the voice of Change is one thing; delivering positive and tangible change is quite another. Just ask Barack Obama.