As the first Coalition Government since the second world war reaches its mid-point, tensions between and within the two constituent parties continue to spill out into public. In this essay, Richard Reeves, former Director of Strategy for the Deputy Prime Minister, offers a first-hand account of life inside the Coalition Government. Reeves suggests that the public disagreements obscure more than they reveal. He argues that the Government has functioned remarkably well – better, in fact, than anyone expected.
This insider’s account reveals the successes and failures, the miscalculations, the triumphs and the frustrations of the Liberal Democrats’ first taste of power. Reeves describes the formation of the Coalition as a victory for pluralistic politics, a sentiment that was bruised by the tribalistic AV referendum campaign. In addition to arguing for a looser fiscal policy, the essay includes reflections on a liberal approach to industrial strategy; reforms to health, welfare and education; the environment and carbon reduction; civil liberties; and social mobility.
His advice to the leadership and the party is that they continue on the path of true liberalism, predicting any return to a variation on social democracy would lead to electoral oblivion. ‘Cleggism’ is the most potent contemporary expression of the modern liberalism the nation needs: open, internationalist, economically radical, green, obsessed with opportunity, and free of vested interests. With the next election almost a thousand days away, the essay suggests that now is the time for liberals to rediscover their radical purpose.