Monday, 20 December 2010

The risks of 'breakneck government'

Following David Davis' tasteless talk of a 'brokeback coalition' back in the summer, there was lots of chatter about the Dave and Nick love-in. Similar backgrounds; similar schooling; similar outlook.

But the Government is more 'breakneck' than 'brokeback'. Everywhere you look they're fundamentally altering the shape of British government and society.

Their Localism Bill will divest local authorities of lots of powers, and allow parish councils or groups of residents to put a stop to housing developments. Want anywhere for your kids to live? Tough.

The NHS is undergoing its most radical overhaul since its creation, giving almost all its commissioning to local GPs. Many wise old birds, including Conservatives, are shaking their heads in despair.

The 'Universal Credit' is supposed to replace all other types of benefits early in the next Parliament with a kind of 'negative income tax' withdrawing income support as you earn more. Sceptical it'll work? You bet.

Their economic policy will shrink the state more radically than any OECD austerity programme since the Second World War - over a longer period of time. Unemployment will probably peak between three and three and a half million.

Their Housing Benefit changes will make sure that people on low incomes won't be able to live anywhere near city centres, changing their character forever.

The Government is withdrawing almost all current funding for university teaching, shifting the burden onto families, graduates and (incidentally) onto a different and less visible bit of their debt book called 'loan subsidies'. Thought the 'debt society' was a thing of the past? Think again.

This also explains why Tory backbenchers are the ones doing all the muttering. They're basically concerned that this is just too much. Talk of an 'imperial clique' at the heart of government, shutting them out of any decision-making while the Lib Dems get to exercise their consciences, is growing. It's on the Conservative, not the Lib Dem benches, where we will see the Coalition's first cracks. They've already revolted a lot more than the Lib Dems.

I'll post more in the week about the implications of all this - suffice to say, this is the mother of all high-risk strategies.

One of these clouds on the horizon is going to turn into an almighty storm, far bigger than the tuition fees imbroglio. But which one?