The three rules for a successful marriage
I remember the conversation well.
I had not long been installed as chairman when the business
editor of this newspaper phoned to ask if the IoD had a view on the
verdict of the electorate. It was May 7 or 8, 2010 and no party had
won a majority.
Hesitatingly – clumsily perhaps – I hinted that some kind of
compromise might be found and that a government could be formed in
a matter of days.
“You mean a coalition?” asked the distinguished commentator.
“Well, that’s clearly not going to happen,” I declaimed with the
confidence of a time-served pollster.
I then went on the mumble and fumble with talk of consensus
politics and the grave circumstances we found ourselves in as a
nation in the face of the budget deficit.
When a few days later, Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg tied the knot on
the lawn of Number 10, I realised that I had missed my chance.
Had I said emphatically “YES” when asked about the desirability
of a coalition being formed, I would have been hailed as a
visionary, a soothsayer, a futurologist no less. Or perhaps
I recently saw a famous redtop ex-editor proclaiming on
television that he has placed a £1,000 bet with Ladbrokes on a
collapse of the coalition by November and that Mr Cameron would no
longer be Prime Minister.
Indeed, as I write, the coalition is creaking. Education
Minister Mr Gove was summoned to the House recently to explain why
MPs first read about his plans to resurrect O-levels in the Daily
Mail and not in a Green Paper.
It appears he had not even consulted his (erstwhile?) Lib Dem
Coalition partners –including Sarah Tether MP, the junior Education
Be that as it may. I have no view on whether O-levels should be
re-introduced or not, but I do know that the three rules for a
successful marriage are (1) Communication (2) Communication, and
When couples stop talking to each other, the slippery slide to
separation and then divorce is often an inevitability.
If I were a betting man I would give this coalition a 50/50
chance of seeing out the full term.
That being the case – metaphorically speaking – I am hedging my
In my business life, which involves significant interactions
with the public sector – especially health, policing, education and
social services budget holders – I am beginning to advise
colleagues to have a Plan B.
A change of government will in many cases mean a change of
personalities and that starts at the top and runs right through the
The Coalition honeymoon has long been over and one senses that
this is becoming a loveless marriage.
The spectre of Mr Boris “Wiff Waff” Johnson becoming Prime
Minister is rapidly moving from the hinterlands of fantasy to the
heartlands of possibility.
And of course we must not write off Mr Miliband. Mr David