YESTERDAY's joint announcement by David Cameron and Nick Clegg of a £9.4bn investment in railway electrification in England and Wales was an orchestrated demonstration of keeping calm and carrying on.
When the Prime Minister has to make a public statement that he is even more committed to the Coalition now than when it was formed two years ago, however, it is clear the partnership is in need of repair.
The Coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats at Westminster has come close to breaking point over reform to the House of Lords due to the rebellion by a larger-than-expected number of Tory backbenchers.
However, it is the LibDems who now look grievously wounded. Yesterday the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delivered another blow when it lowered the UK growth forecast for 2012 to 0.2%. With next year's forecast also lowered from the previously expected 2% to just 1.4%, amid a warning over further fallout from the eurozone debt crisis, this was a timely reminder Government policy must focus on stimulating the economy. The effect already felt on the real economy of household budgets is even more shocking. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's latest figures show that rising childcare and transport costs along with cuts to tax credits mean families now need to earn a third more to make ends meet than in 2008. For an acceptable standard of living a couple with two children now must earn £36,800, a rise of twice the rate of inflation.
Scottish Liberal Democrats must be all too aware from this year's council elections that it is these fundamental considerations that most influence votes and ,by supporting Tory policies, they are haemorrhaging support.
It has been ebbing from the LibDems since most MPs reneged on their individual pledges to oppose increases in tuition fees in England. The loss of the AV referendum and the hiatus over Lords reform have further dismayed their voters, while tweaking Tory tax plans and the bank reform proposals are little compensation for being a human shield for swingeing budget cuts. The junior Coalition partner must now use its influence to push for positive economic policies. The IMF has warned that policymakers must take further action to get to grips with the eurozone crisis. These are interesting political times, with every party in the UK being forced to re-assess its strategies in relation to the others on a variety of issues from the economy to the referendum on independence for Scotland.
Dismissing "bumps and scrapes and difficulties along the way", Mr Cameron has promised a mid-term review of Coalition policies later in the summer. If that is to be effective it must be about more than horse-trading. Reform of the House of Lords and parliamentary constituency boundaries are important but the economy is in need of urgent action. It is time both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats concentrated on the substance instead of the presentation. A hard road lies ahead.
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