The elections have happened, the referendum has taken place. Things have to move forward. Whilst there are lessons to be learned from the last few weeks, lingering too long on the past is a dangerous move in politics. As the anniversary of the Coalition has now passed, it is time for the Conservatives to move on.
After all, there is still a lot of work to be done. In the last year, the Coalition and particularly the Conservatives have begun the process of getting some radical Bills through parliament – the Localism Bill, the NHS reforms, the Welfare Bill, the Education Bill and the Police Bill are the best known examples.
All of these Bills propose radical changes to their respective systems, and they are integral to David Cameron’s vision for his time in government. It is important that the attention of the Party and the wider Coalition now turns to these Bills, and the work that needs to be done to them to tweak them and make them as good as they can be.
This is important for two reasons. Firstly, it is important as the Bills have already been placed in the public domain, and any backtracking of them will look like the Conservatives are not able to push their own proposals through. Once something is suggested in politics, it is extremely difficult – and embarrassing – to retract it. The nightmare the Party had over the proposed selling off of forests is a perfect example, and an all too recent reminder for Mr Cameron of the fallout when things go wrong.
The issues surrounding the NHS reforms have also shown that there is a need for Cameron to steer the Conservative ship through some rough waters at the moment. The Prime Minister needs to show authority, leadership and a desire to achieve over the next few weeks, to ensure that not only his party but the public see he is a leader willing to reform and reshape British politics.
Last night’s Police Bill defeat in the Lords is undoubtedly a setback for Cameron, and is not the start to the Coalition’s second year that he would have wanted. It is another situation from which the Conservatives must dust themselves off and move on.
Secondly, it is important because the Conservative Party needs a boost – a piece of legislation or a policy that speaks strongly of traditional Tory principles and reminds the Party of what they believe in and why they are in government. Entering into Coalition has been difficult for many Conservatives, and whilst many have accepted that it is a necessary concession to being in power, it still does not sit comfortably. If Cameron can claim some victories on his key policies, it will reassure his party and the public.
The Coalition has had a tricky first year, and has come out well overall. As George Osborne said on Sunday, it’s a sign of how well they have done that the conversation at the moment isn’t all about the deficit crisis Britain finds itself in. A financial crisis has been avoided, and the plans that the Conservatives have put forward have a real and genuine chance of changing a lot of the broken systems that are a legacy of Labour’s thirteen years in power.
Now is the time for the Coalition, the Conservatives in general and David Cameron specifically, to reassess their situation and to make a concerted push to get policies through and Bills passed. If they can do so, public perception will continue to improve and the Coalition will be regarded as a genuine success. If they fail, then the rough waters will continue to get worse, and it will be Cameron who has to answer the questions as to what went wrong.