Wednesday, 4 August 2010


Keir always thought this government would last no more than two years. The signs are ominous/promising, however you want to look at it.

Simon Hughes' open discontent regarding David Cameron's housing proposals today is a meaningful moment. Hughes has always been held in high regard by liberals and progressives, and with good reason. A member of the Beveridge Group, Hughes' views have always been compatible with progressives in this country. And today he showed he isn't afraid to speak out against a government he knows is doing wrong. Unlike his peers Nick Clegg and Vince Cable, Hughes doesn't seem too fussed about power and doesn't want to sell out his principles. Sadly for him, his party did that on his behalf. Even the things he has said regarding the coalition have been sensible and far-removed from the brown-nosing "I thought this was a good idea all along" attitude of Deputy Dawg. Hughes is right, of course. He is right when he says that the point of social housing is to provide security. Being in social housing means, as he said:

"You know you can have affordable housing for the rest of your life and for people in many walks of life – out of work, retired, on low incomes – that's fundamentally important."

That is the view of the progressive. And it is diametrically opposed to the view of the Conservative. The Tories are intransigent on issues like this; especially now during a time when they are being smokescreened by the view that all of these cuts are necessary.

In addition to today's disaffection, Hughes also passed comment on Michael Gove's mental free schools plan last month. "A nonsense" is what Hughes said it would be to spend money on free schools that could have been spent improving existing school buildings. And God knows what Hughes thinks of Theresa May's decision to scrap plans to ban domestic abusers from the homes of the victims. I'd forgive him if he was still sitting at home squinting at his screen, wondering whether he is actually reading that story correctly. I'm still confused now as to what is going on inside May's head.

Coalitions collapse over things like this. We all saw what happened in Holland over disagreements on Afghanistan troop numbers. And Belgium's coalition government collapsed over what I think can be deemed an even smaller matter than the housing issue; although the cultural factors in that particular case were complex. Then there was Romania's coalition catastrophe. In all of these cases, the splits were arguably between parties much more closely aligned by ideology than our current coalition.

Though I admire Hughes' defiance, I will wait for him to start voting against things until passing full judgement. He has a lot of respect throughout the party, as shown with his election to Deputy Leader, and therefore should have a lot more influence over the left-wing MPs than Messrs. Clegg, Cable, Alexander and Laws. If he feels this strongly, he could lead a revolt. But I get the feeling that he also wants to be sensible and try to make this odd coalition work.

Still, the possibility is there. It shows how fragile this Government is and it can collapse. What's the relevance? Labour must be ready to fight on the ground whenever the moment comes. Keir still feels this will be before the end of 2012. We need to begin mobilising now. And as soon as our leader is in place, we need to unite and begin the fight; whoever that leader is. Let's be clear though: that leader has to be the Member for South Shields in order to give us the greatest chance of winning.


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