The media and Tory/Lib Dem government would have you believe that the current coalition is a marriage, indeed David Cameron refers to it as a civil partnership. However I would argue that this is the wrong metaphor and what we are really looking at is an affair by two consenting parties.
A marriage or civil partnership requires that both give themselves fully to the relationship, where give and take is required and where both parties are ultimately travelling on the same path together. An affair on the other hand has a much smaller remit, the function of which is some short term end and where the individuals wants have priority.
As I hear rumours that David Cameron is to speak at the Lib Dem conference I cannot but think that the coalition is making more of this relationship than is or should be the case. Let’s be clear, the coalition agreement is an affair of convenience. Each party looks to fulfill a limited set of wants and needs but no more. By setting themselves up with talk of marriages and civil partnerships the coalition left themselves wide open to not unreasonable attacks from the media and opposition. The media were then free to talk about cracks in the relationship while the opposition delighted in taking the role of the jilted lover of one of the parties who secretly fancies missing out on all the fun.
Kenny Farquharson in his piece for the Scotland on Sunday last week hit the nail on the head in pointing to the coalition being painted as if it needs to behave like a ‘monolithic, monoglot party’ instead of what it truly is – a temporary necessity to allow the smooth running of the country. An affair doesn’t have the pretences of a long-lasting romance, an affair doesn’t require each party to agree to everything the other is saying, because in five years time everyone knows that circumstance will require each party goes its own way and perhaps finds another partner.
So let’s stop all this nonsense about cracks appearing in the marriage and broken promises. Why do Lib Dems need to pretend that the VAT rise is to our taste. It’s a regressive tax and we said that during the election. We need to tell voters that if the Lib Dems had been given a stronger mandate at the election then we would have used other fiscal levers that are fairer. Yes we agreed to the coalition agreement and I support that agreement but we need to be bold and vocal on those areas we didn’t sign up to in order to show what sets us apart from the Conservatives.