2012: The Continuity Coalition
A happy new year from our UK Political Editor Harry Cole. It's going to be an interesting one, though ideally David Cameron would rather that things carried on the way they were
When asked by the Sunday Times what to expect for Cameron and the coalition in 2012 my line was “Keep Calm and Carry On and Cut Clegg Some Slack Occasionally!” In other words, business as usual.
Though there are undoubtedly huge holes in the road ahead, as I wrote here at the end of last year, this government has never been stronger.
The combination of the Liberal Democrats’ polling position plus Cameron taking steps towards winning over the eurosceptics in his party (who far outnumber the yellows) has locked the coalition down. Throw into the mix the boundary review and there isn't an election until at least 2013.
Expect Cameron and Clegg to remain very quiet about Ed Miliband. The last thing they would want is that electoral gift to be knifed in the back.
They can have a little bit of fun and toy with him at PMQs given how hard it is to unseat a Labour leader, especially one of the left, but it would be a huge miscalculation if they were to push too hard and see Labour unseat him.
With the lack of a meaningful opposition this government has a chance to actually get things done this year. If there was ever a time to take on the unions this would be it. Strikes can be beaten with the Labour Party unable to decide which side they will be on.
However, just because the leader is weak, it does not mean Labour should be discounted completely. What we will begin to see this year is disgruntled members of the Shadow Cabinet despairing of a lack of leadership from the top and starting to branch out and do their own thing.
Expect punchy speeches, new ideas, and themes to be developed on a personal level in shadow departments.
There is some real talent shadowing some of the weaker elements of the cabinet so we could see some good battles emerging here.
The first real challenge of the year for Cameron is the EU summit in a couple of weeks, plus a meeting of the G20. Steel and grit, as Mr Miliband might say, are required. If he is seen to go back on his veto from December in any way he will have hell to pay with his party, though if he allows the spin that we are all alone on the international stage to cut through then he is in an equally dangerous position.
He needs to be feisty but should remember that virtually every single leader of any significance in the various clubs is up for re-election this year, and for some reason bashing Brits in domestic elections in France, Russia, and even the USA is rather popular at the moment. Cameron should watch his back.
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