Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Little Bit of Pomp & Ceremony

I should probably start this post off by clarifying that I am, generally, a fan of the British Monarchy. I'm not sure I'd institute a hereditary monarchy if I was starting a new country from scratch and there are a lot of members of the Royal Family whom I think are a waste of space but as an institution the monarchy is a *good thing* - at least in my eyes.

Thus the State Opening of Parliament will always be one of those occasions that fills me with joy - I love a Crown, a ridiculously long train and an archaic ceremony with a strange fervour. I suspect this comes from the fact that as a historian by inclination very old things will always appeal... However today wasn't really about the past - it was about the future, about the still shiny and new Coalition government telling us in a bit more detail what they plan to do over the months and years to come. It marks the start of a certain amount of returning to reality in UK politics...

So what do I think of the Coalition now the dust has had two weeks to settle? To be honest it all still seems  bit unreal - according to folklore hung parliaments are supposed to bring inertia and bickering not a general love-in and rapid action. I admit to having had my own assumptions well and truly challenged - although at least I didn't make a party political broadcast about the dangers of the Hung Parliament party (a piece of wit David C must be regretting even more than *that joke* about Nick Clegg)... How I thought other countries coped I have no idea!

Broadly, I still like the Coalition a lot - the Programme for Goverment issued last week set out a policy framework that seemed to capture the best bits of both parties and it is clear that a lot of work has gone (and continues to go) into making this partnership work. The almost lightening speed with which the £6 billion of spending cuts for this financial year have been identified is the exact opposite of inertia. It feels like the entire country has been put on a new server and suddenly you realise how much the old server was slowing you down.

The phrase "in the national interest" has been supremely overused over the past few weeks but it genuinely feels like that is how the Conservative and Lib Dem front bench teams are trying to govern - and that's what we need. The Eurozone is in meltdown, war appears to be looming between North and South Korea - this is really no time for prevaricating or party political points scoring. The next few years, maybe even the whole of the next five years, are going to be tough - but I have this quiet sense that we might just come out the other side ok.

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