What Cameron might learn from Palliser about coalition politics

David Cameron’s cabinet re-shuffle has the appearance of preparation to fight the next election. Old hands are withdrawing and fresh faces appear to revive flagging fortunes.  It all seems to be driven by a reactive approach to drubbings in local elections and the rise of UKIP in the recent European elections. The decision making is by consensus, after consideration of opinion polls and input from focus groups. There is a blandness and an unwillingness to confront real issues (as distinct from popular issues) which seems to be a general malaise afflicting all the parties.

In Trollope’s fictional coalition government in The Prime Minister, Plantagenet Palliser steers the country through three years with more success than he gives himself credit for achieving. He does this without significantly bending his principles, though with much heart-searching, and with the aid of people around him whom he can trust. That trust he can give because they are gentlemen.

Therein lies, I think the difference. In this political era, it is difficult to trust because everyone is inclined to do what is expedient at any given moment, rather than what is right according to conviction or principles.


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