Comment: Even those of us who support the coalition must admit it’s drifting

By Charlotte Henry

The coalition government seems more disunited then ever before. Having stumbled through Lords reform and the boundary review squabble, we now have very public spats over Europe and wind farms.

Liberal Democrats seem to feel emboldened and have started telling Conservative colleagues where to go. The Tories just seem fed up, as shown by last night's rebellion of 53 over the EU budget.

Frankly, who can blame the Conservatives for feeling confident enough to rebel afteer pasties, Andrew Mitchell, and George Osborne's first class error? The level of incompetence shown time and time again by the Conservative leadership is staggering.

Additionally, Europe is an area on which the troublemakers can flex their muscles and have most of the public on their side.  Indeed, a Tory source told me that following the success of bankbenchers such as Douglas Carswell, the 2010 intake are actually emboldened and happy to take principled stands against the whips.

With Labour siding with the Tory rebels last night, it all leaves the Lib Dems in a rather precarious position.  They are instinctively, and correctly, pro-European, but that doesn't mean they need to support it becoming a bottomless pit for British cash to be poured into.

In fact, establishing a cutting and reforming pro-European agenda would significantly outflank Eurosceptics and leave the Lib Dems in a far more credible position politically. How can the party make the sensible case for cuts at home, but not in the EU?

Then we get to wind farms. Energy secretary Ed Davey told his Conservative underling John Hayes precisely what he thought of his public statements against such developments.

It all leaves the Coalition in a rather awkward position. We can skip the conversation about it collapsing and a general election pre-2015. Have a look at the polls. It's just not going to happen.

That does not mean we can ignore the central issue though. Two and half years into its life, the coalition hasn't actually built a narrative around what it is for apart from a few cuts. 

This degeneration into tit-for-tat politics only makes this problem worse.  The two parties are (understandably) so desperate to prove they are different that they have forgotten to find the bits of themselves that are the same. They are focussing more on areas on which they disagree than which they agree.

A rebellion on Europe doesn't really matter in the long term; in fact it probably helps David Cameron's negotiating position.  A ministerial spat is a little bit more serious in terms of personalities, but is also hardly likely to cause any long-term damage. The real problem is that it is all building an impression of a government that is drifting, that has no real plan.

For those of us that support the government, that is the most disappointing bit of all.

After interning in parliament for Lib Dem MP Don Foster, Charlotte began working with clients to develop their social and web presence, as well as running websites. She has worked with a wide range of commercial, political, and third sector clients, and runs the blog Charlotte often appears in the media commenting on political issues, and stood for the Lib Dems in the 2012 Greater London Assembly elections. She is @charlotteahenry on Twitter.

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