Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cracks in the Coalition?

Tory backbenchers beginning to grumble

As the British Conservative Party's convention continues, Prime Minister David Cameron must be looking forward to (hopefully), a peaceful conference.

Unfortunately for Cameron, it's a little too much to ask right now.

With the party readying itself to face acrimonious protests to planned cuts to the public budget, Cameron also has to face discontent within his own party, over how many concessions the Tories have made to their coalition partners.

"It seems as if the Coalition is proceeding on a basis of continuous appeasement without consulting the backbenches," complained long-time Tory MP Christopher Chope.

"Ministers are effectively being held to ransom by a small group of Liberal Democrats, who are in a sense the tail wagging the dog on too many occasions," he continued. "I have spoken to Conservative ministers and I know a number of them share those frustrations."

But if Ministers are feeling the pressure, Chope said that backbenchers are feeling it even more intensely.

"The whips are being heavy handed beyond anything I can recall in threatening the termination of political careers before they have even started," he fumed.

1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady, who is responsible for representing the views of backbench MPs to the party leadership, suggested (more diplomatically) that being so ham-fisted with backbench MPs is not a wise move, and that party leadership needs to be constructively engaged with backbenchers.

"We will be more effective in holding the party together and making sure that we function as a team if we have that very good process of communication in both directions," Brady said.

This will certainly be a challenge for Cameron with more and more of his MPs seemingly beginning to feel that they're holding the short end of the coalition stick.

Oddly enough, they aren't.

Many observers have expressed marvel at the amount of the cuts outlined by their election platform that they'll be able to implement. Considering that the Conservatives are very much relying on the Lib Dems for their survival, it's remarkable that they haven't had to offer more concessions than they already have.

It would be difficult for Cameron to elicit any more concessions out of the Liberal Democrats. Even with their suffering polling numbers giving them a clear incentive to ensure the coalition's survival, they have to draw the line somewhere if they're going to survive at all.

Christopher Chope and Graham Brady have every right -- and responsibility -- to voice their concerns. They'd just better be careful about demanding that David Cameron bite off more than he can chew.

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