You’ll have noticed that the site hasn’t been updated a great deal over the past few weeks, as the election got closer and then ended in such dramatic fashion it became clear that musings and news on events in our little corner of the UK would largely go unspotted.
Even as I write this, the news is dominated by the announcement of which Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs will get jobs in the new coalition Government.
I grew up in the 80’s under a long period of one party rule surrounded by Labour supporters who felt they’d never get ‘their turn’ in Government. I suspect many Conservative members have feared much the same since 1997 and I don’t know any LibDems who genuinely expected a recent General Election to result in Cabinet and Ministerial posts for their team.
Supporters of the two (eventually) victorious parties are presumably delighted, Labour types much less so.
But today’s post-devolution Britain, one of Labour’s better legacies, means that even after a General Election defeat the Labour party still wields power in Wales where it sits in coalition with Plaid.
It’s increasingly clear that the days of divisive, factional, tribal politics are over and that we’re all going to have to get used to seeing differing configurations of the same parties within different tiers of Government and the devolved bodies.
Here in the capital we’ve long had a form of reverse coalition, with parties on the London Assembly banding together to ensure the party of the Mayor (or in the first term, the Tories when the other parties seemingly decided to punished them for some unknown crime) doesn’t get to fill the roles of Assembly Chair and Deputy Chair.
Understandably the Tories, currently the largest group on the Assembly, aren’t keen on being shut out of potential jobs but on the other hand Mayor Boris has plenty to bestow on them and there’s some logic in a single party not occupying all three of City Hall’s top jobs.
There’s been some whispering and questioning about whether, in light of the national coalition between the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, the anti-Tory grouping would hold together. All the current indications are that it will.
What’s less clear is who’ll eventually fill the roles. LibDem Dee Doocey is tipped by some for Assembly Chair but I understand the deal hasn’t yet been agreed.
Last year no-one was surprised when Darren Johnson was elected because we’d all been heavily briefed that that would be the outcome, indeed it was such a ‘sure thing’ that I interviewed him about his plans for the role some days ahead of the vote taking place.
By the way, in that same interview Darren confidently predicted the Greens were on the threshold of getting an MP elected to Westminster. Last Thursday his optimism was borne out with the election of Caroline Lucas.
Though I’m optimistic that the Westminster coalition will have many positive impacts on the way politics in the UK works – not least because it exposes English voters to a perfectly normal form of Government already known elsewhere in the UK but which is rarely covered with any prominence by the wider media – I’m disappointed that it has reportedly opted to retain the redundant position of Minister for London.
It’s a decade since Londoners first elected a citywide Mayor with executive powers far exceeding anything a low-ranking Minister can wield.
Real political reform of the type both coalition parties say they support requires that they accept Londoners have no need for a remote, unaccountable Minister or, as London’s politicians have already noted, a separate Government Office to put London’s case to Government and vice versa.
We have Boris for that.
PS: If you’ve not already spotted, today is the 10th anniversary of the first London Assembly meeting and we’re kicking off a run of what will hopefully be a number of special features with an ‘on this day’ style feature covering the event.