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Battered UK Coalition to Keep Calm and Carry On

When Britain’s Conservatives and Liberal Democrats formed the country’s first coalition government since World War II, many predicted that it wouldn’t last until the next election. So far, the coalition is still together, but the British public remains pessimistic about its fortunes, with only 16 percent polled last summer believing the coalition would last another three years.

Conservative PM David Cameron and Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg are having none of it. The FT reports that the two leaders announced this week their renewed dedication to the shared government. The government is set to release a “midterm review” document that will detail their achievements and lay out a plan for the future. The fact that much of their plan (including a new high speed rail system) will take years to deliver suggests that if the Tories don’t get a majority in the election expected for 2015, the coalition may very well last longer than one parliament.

For many of the coalition MPs, who are increasingly skittish about collaboration with colleagues they don’t like or trust, this would not be a welcome development. Nevertheless, Cameron and Clegg insist that on the most important questions the Tories and the Liberals are united. Their biggest shared priority (“the holy grail,” according to Cameron) is reducing the cost of child care for British families, in part by easing regulations that limit the number of children each day care worker can supervise.

There was always a whiff of implausibility to this government, and we expect that the tensions between the two parties will continue to simmer beneath the surface. But they are trying to tackle important issues in Britain, and they have also moved very boldly on trying out new and innovative policy. It’s best for Britain that the coalition’s policies be given a fair trial; voters can always junk these policies and the parties who proposed them if they fail.

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