Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The first 99 days

For some reason the first 100 days in office is now seen by the media as a crucial point to measure the results and progress of a government. The accuracy of this gauge is questionable. How well could the government of Margret Thatcher be judged in August 1979? What were the merits of Tony Blair's time in office in August 1997?

Also, although David Cameron has been Prime Minister for 100 days, for the first few hours of his Premiership he led a minority Conservative government. The Liberal Democrats only formally agreed to the Coalition deal after midnight – meaning the Coalition's 100th day is tomorrow. In any case, the new government has done a lot in its first 99 days in power, although no one has really felt the benefits or pain of it yet.

The really interesting question, which has been asked since the start, is how long will it last? If it does break apart, the first cracks in the Coalition won't come from the Cabinet, most of them have found that they like their colleagues from the other party and are enthusiastic about being in government. If it happens, descent will come from the backbenchers, the 1922 Committee or disgruntled Liberal Democrat MPs, who can and will stand up to their leadership. One thing both Coalition parties have in common is a proclivity for regicide, unlike Labour.

There is a sense of limbo in British politics at the moment, partly because there currently isn't a Labour leader, but also because a coalition in the UK still feels strange, especially one between such unlikely bedfellows. In time, as policies are implemented and the novelty fades, things will change, but on the 99th day it's impossible to say how or when.

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