When Olly Grender blogged the other day about what does having a mandate to do something in government actually mean, it got me thinking. After all neither ourselves or the Tories actually won the general election in the sense of getting a working majority under FPTP, let alone a 50.1% share of the votes cast, so in that sense do we have a mandate to do anything, other than co-incidental policies which our two manifestos happen to share.
Which would make for a pretty limited amount of governing to do…
That's why I think two things that happened in the past week are really interesting.
Firstly Lord Oakeshott’s renewed, strident criticism of the banks and the governments actions over them – he must be the most agreed with Lib Dem politician in the country just now – reminded me that both the Tory and Lib Dem manifestos promised robust regulation and action over the banks. And while we are making some progress, I don’t think anyone really sees enough being done – how are we cutting the funding of frontline NHS staff for example, while allowing Barclays to get away with paying around 2% corporation tax? And why are we doing this when both our manifestos said we’d deal with the banks?
If any government had a mandate to do something, this must surely be it.
And then I read Shirley Williams piece on the NHS reforms and why she disagreed with them (it’s behind the Times firewall I’m afraid so here’s a report about the report from the ever brilliant virtuallynaked blog…).
She makes the excellent point that not only was it not in the manifesto’s (don’t give me that guff about it being one line of page 46 of the Tory one or whatever – you don’t sneak through a decision to turn the most loved institution in the country through in the small print); but the coalition agreement promised the complete opposite – no top down reform of the NHS.
Shirley says (and I agree) that anything not in the coalition agreement is not covered by collective responsibility – so she’s free to oppose it. I’d go further on the collective responsibility argument of course – I think new politics demands we don’t need to agree 100% on everything, and it makes us look daft when we pretend that we do.
But in this case – if you disagree with the proposals (and the party seems a little split on this...), there’s no mandate for it – so go mount the barricades.
I blogged the other day that cutting frontline NHS staff might be the Tories Tuition fee moment.
Let’s not make it the Lib Dems tuition fee moment all over again please….