The Liberal Democrats - 6 Months Into Government
The good news for Lib Dems is that they are on the agenda and always being talked about. The bad news is that it's hard to find anyone with a good word to say about them. There is only one debate in town for them since the Browne report on higher education funding and student finance. The answer that the students need to pay more has not gone down well.
Pledge is a horrible word to fall victim to. And fallen they have. A pledge against raising tuition fees which all Lib Dem MPs agreed has been taken as a promise rather than a token of intent. They have failed to create a narrative which would stop this being seen as a broken promise. Abstaining isn't an answer as their pledge specifically states to vote against the rise in fees.
They are going to find this one very hard to get out of. During the lead up to the general election following the first prime ministerial debate the Lib Dems polled comfortably in the mid 20's. Now it is as if the surge never happened. It looks as though they have sacrificed the party for the sake of one term of government stability and a taste of power.
Will they change tact before the next election? They will increasingly find that power sharing does nothing for their aspiration to win an overall majority government in the perceivable future if they are continually forced to renege on their principles.
Their best chance of survival will come from getting everything they need out of the coalition done as early as possible. I'm thinking no longer than 18 months. Most importantly the electoral reforms which Nick Clegg was smart enough to grab responsibility for in his role as deputy. Alternative Vote and evening out constituency boundaries will do make seats easier for them to win. They will also need to get through legislation supporting a couple of their key policies. If they don't then they will have a more favourable voting system but no integrity on which to capitalise on it.
Honeymoon is over, time to get real. Look for the signs by this time next year.