Are members of the coalition simply exhausted?

Are members of the coalition simply exhausted?

Jonathan looks at the toll of being in government

David Cameron looks tired.  At the last PMQs the Prime Minister was not on top form. Arguably he has started to show symptoms of exhaustion. Other ministers are faring little better. It is perhaps understandable. Even before Libya, the workload undertaken by this administration was daunting. After less than one year in office is this government already exhausted?

At PMQs this week the Prime Minister was not at his best. He was unable to provide answers to a range of important and reasonable questions. He seemed completely unaware of the £9000 tuition fees issue. Whilst the Prime Minster was obviously poorly briefed, he really should be on top of this information. In addition, the prime minister was obviously irritable. For the past few weeks, Cameron has not been enjoying PMQs as much as he did. On top form, the Prime Minister would not have snapped at Ed Balls.

Other ministers are faring little better than the Prime Minister. At 70, Ken Clarke can perhaps be forgiven for nodding off during the Budget. It was George Osborne after all. But the younger generation have no excuse. Earlier this year, a coalition colleague described the Deputy Prime Minister, 44, as “a bit fragile” and needing “a lot of rest and time off”. Since then Clegg has made fewer high profile appearances. But on one rare occasion he made it outside, he made an inadvertent tribute to Gordon Brown and forgot to turn his radio mic off. As the previous Prime Minister found out, when you get tired you make mistakes. This government is making unforced errors.

Clearly, office is taking its toll on the Coalition. All politicians grow tired in office. Anyone who witnessed the physical change in Labour figures from 1997 to 2010 would attest to that. But the rapid pace of Coalition reform appears to be aging the coalition at an accelerated rate.

Common sense suggests that you will get tired if you try to simultaneously reform every aspect of government and then start military action on top of ongoing military commitments. In short, some of this tiredness is of the Coalition’s own making. The government needs to choose its battles.

The 1945 Labour administration sends a dire warning to the coalition. It is one of the few governments to approach reform faster and more comprehensively. It should chill the Coalition to its core that despite enormous public goodwill, a massive majority and a uniquely talented team, Atlee’s government was totally exhausted after only five years. Tiredness opened the door to the opposition and allowed them to retain power for more than a decade. Government is a marathon, not a sprint. The coalition needs to wake up to that fact, but perhaps it is already too late.

Jonathan, a Labour activist, contributes a weekly column on PB

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