Back when the Comprehensive Spending Review happened earlier in the year I remarked to some friends that the one thing the coalition government should pray for was a mild winter.
Well, if they did, it didn’t work. As the snow piles up, so do the problems for Moon-faced Dave. The tuition fees row is just the tip of a very, very big iceberg if some of the disquiet of the last few days is to be believed. It’s also why, as far as I can see, Ed Milliband’s attempts to stick the knife in and twist might be very well-timed indeed. His nailing of Vince Cable (once a welcome voice of sanity and now little better than a clown) as craven, and the government held together by only the thinnest of threads, can’t be described as anything other than accurate.
Just look at the landscape right now: concerns that the preparations for bad weather have not been managed well; unemployment rising; inflation rising; housing market basically flatlined; a stuttering economy. And that’s before the ‘cuts’ that have been pushed through have even taken effect. Or before the VAT rise arrives in January.
Already, the public sector unions are jumpy, and the only reason this hasn’t permeated the private sector is the rollback of unions from corporate Britain. Fuel prices are now, in some cases, nearly 50% higher than this time last year. Energy bills are once again rising, with concerns about the power companies using wholesale prices as a neat excuse to wring even more cash out of their customers to bolster dividends.
The optimism from Cameron and Osborne that the private sector would ‘take up the slack’ of public sector job losses seems ever more foolhardy and misdirected. Meanwhile, their coalition partner in the LibDems are in despair: they seem to be there to prop up the Maoist ‘continual and continuous revolution’ zeal of a Conservative right wing who know that one term is all the chance they’ll get, all the while aware that they are being used as a human shield. Come May and the local elections and the AV referendum that they will now surely lose, the LibDems will be in meltdown. Even their own leader knows he’s on borrowed time in his own constituency, stuffed as it is full of students. Their position is hopeless, both unable to distance themselves from the conservatives to be distinctive and unable to claim enough credit for any success that may arrive to convince voters they are a viable force. The wilderness awaits.
The storm clouds are gathering and the winter looks as if it will last almost for ever. Spring seems a very long way away indeed.