New brooms to sweep clean?

Nothing became him in this life so much as the leaving of it

So bye bye new Labour and hello to the new politics. Or the Dave ‘n’ Nick show.

During last week’s press conference in the gardens of Downing Street last week I was half expecting the pair to break into a chorus of ‘Bring me Sunshine’.

The electorate clearly wanted a change but not the sweeping change that would have resulted in a clear majority win for David Cameron and the Conservative Party.

Maybe the hope is that having so many LibDems in the Cabinet will rein in the others, curbing any instinct for Draconian cuts. And then again, maybe not. Maybe Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Danny Alexander and David Laws are so chuffed at getting a place at the table that they’ll eat their vegetables, say please and thank you and generally do what they are told.

I’d like to think not. I hope not. The Cameron/Clegg press conference, providing it wasn’t all scripted (again, I hope not), made me think that this could work. It has to work.

The LibDems have got to their highest position of power since the national coalition governments of the 1930s. Clegg is deputy prime minister for goodness sake. It’s in their interest to get this to work or else they will be relegated in the public consciousness to the role of also-rans, probably this time for ever. It’s in Cameron’s interest to make it work, to show that these are the days of new Tory, as well as new politics.

Much will be revealed on June 22 when the boy George reveals his first Budget and we’ll get a feeling for how many and how deep the cuts will be.

In other news, the fact that Grant Shapps has taken on the housing minister role he has been shadowing for so long means we might get some consistency. And I think it’s encouraging that Mark Prisk, as construction minister, is actually a Minister for State, a more senior seat than when it was occupied by Ian Lucas under the last administration. Could this mean that construction is going to be taken more seriously? Time will tell.

Amusing though the double-act in the garden was last week, there’s one image from the election that will stay with me for a long time. Gordon Brown, head held high, leaving Downing Street hand-in-hand with his family on their way to their new life. There strode a man who understands that politics is all very well, but real life is where it’s at.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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