The Coalition Agreement – a few observations
The Con Lib Coalition has published its full agreement this morning. The agreement runs to 36 pages, which makes it impossible to cover in any great depth here. There are, however, a few points that deserve an immediate mention.
The agreement states: “we recognise that deficit reduction, and continuing to ensure economic recovery, is the most urgent issue facing Britain”. Sorry, which of those is the most urgent issue? Deficit reduction or economic recovery? The two aims are not the same. In the long-term, we all want the deficit eliminated and the recovery secured, but that won’t happen quickly. So let’s be clear: economic recovery must come first, with the deficit being paid back gradually as growth is entrenched. The dangers of rushing to pay back the deficit before the recovery is secured really are too gruesome to think about. This will be a major TUC theme in coming months.
The agreement will “consider” the implementation of the Dyson Review, “to make the UK the leading high-tech exporter in Europe”. The Dyson Review was one of the best things to come out of the Conservative Party before the election. If it were implemented, especially in conjunction with Liberal Democrat ambitions for the growth of green industries, it could give the UK a powerful industrial policy that would help us to build the post-crisis economy. I hope the coalition does not “consider” for very long, but gets on with implementing Dyson as soon as possible. I’m a little afraid that “consider” is a polite word for “kick into the long grass”. Please, Government, prove me wrong on this one!
The decision to set up a green investment bank is welcome. There was pretty much cross-party consensus on the need for such a bank before the election, so going ahead with this is common sense.
The fact that the coalition “will maintain the goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020” is very welcome. The TUC will have much to say about this in coming weeks, but the way in which this interacts with benefit reforms and spending cuts will be a major issue. Again, “maintaining the goal” is great, but some flesh about how this will be practically pursued is needed.
Finally, the sentence “We will use our relationships with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights” is also very welcome. The temptation to contrast this with some of the comments attributed to Conservative allies in the European Parliament is almost too strong to resist, but I’ll leave that one to the sketch writers!