Politics.co.uk Blog

Monday, 16 August 2010

Cosying up to the coalition

One of the most infuriating aspects of writing about a new government is the sheer foot-dragging reluctance of lobby groups to mouth off against them.

So many organisations prefer to keep on err on the side of caution when it comes to criticising our new rulers - because they know they are going to have to work with them for several years to come.

To the extent that the coalition hasn't yet addressed all of the agenda points in its programme for government just yet, that's fair enough.

But for those where clear proposals are now in the open, what's wrong with a bit of open-ended criticism?

The shift from six months previously makes the trend all the more clear. After 13 years of irritants virtually any organisation was ready to launch into a rant against the iniquities of New Labour's processes.

Now we find ourselves faced with endless off-the-record conversations about the slapdash approach of the coalition - and nothing to put into our articles. There is real concern out there about many of the government's ideas, but very little willingness to openly come out and challenge them.

The result? Ministers get something approaching carte blanche. Only when they try especially ill-thought-out proposals (c.f. academies bill) do they attract slings and arrows of negative press coverage.

This honeymoon period won't last forever, of course. This is the thought which sustains us through the long, long summer months.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Dog days

The terrible torment of politics in early August is especially excruciating this year.

Twelve months ago was bad enough. I recall staggering into a deserted parliament (out of boredom of course) before being told by a sage old veteran that the first week of August is, approximately, the most tedious period known to man.

Two years ago Russia obliged by invading South Ossetia. Last year Locerkbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's compassionate release livened up the Worst Month Of All. So far, this month hasn't come up with an equivalent relief at all. The row with Pakistan definitely doesn't count.

The break is, arguably, worse than usual, because MPs are set to return for a two-week sitting of parliament in September. It means they only have five weeks or so to cram in their summer holidays - and so are all off at once. No one is available to speak to because they are all on a beach somewhere.

The result? Those who haven't yet managed to escape are left trying to get worked up about very little. They can, for example, write five paragraphs about absolutely nothing. A journalist's work is never done.