What connects David Cameron’s speech on welfare with the leak of Michael Gove’s O’level plans? Neither was a government announcement but instead a Conservative Party positioning statement.
The fallout from the bitty budget was followed by much analysis of how the Lib Dems were starting to break free of the Coalition, by concentrating on a ‘differentiation strategy’. The idea behind the differentiation strategy is to decouple the Lib Dems’ from decisions taken by the Government, which are likely to be unpopular amongst the voters they need to maintain influence.
Over the last week we have seen the start of the Conservative’s differentiation strategy. Instead of decoupling themselves from the Government’s agenda the Conservatives are choosing to show voters what they could have won had there been a Conservative majority.
This is significant. The pursuit of the two differentiation strategies marks the end of the “doing what is best in the public interest” consensus, which Cameron and Clegg based the Coalition on. We now have a situation where there is effectively no future government agenda as no new legislation of any significance is likely to pass – this includes the House of Lords Bill and finalising the boundary review.
Ministers and departments will be responsible for implementation and day-to-day management. Both of the differentiation strategies are based on campaigning away from, and at times against, the record of the Coalition Government.
Parliament now contains three main opposition parties, all of whose priority is to position themselves for the next election.