It has been an interesting few days since Mr. Cameron made his first offer of a coalition to the Liberal Democrats. Now the coalition agreement is published and it is a thoughtful and quite well crafted document. Many will be unhappy that the Liberal Democrats have gone into coalition with the Conservatives, but to my mind there was neither the numbers nor the will for Labour to even come to the table. In the end we will have to place a degree of trust in Mr. Cameron's word: but it is trust which rests on the knowledge that any betrayal of the agreement would be seen as such and either side may be punished if they fail to follow through on their commitments.
The agreement includes a commitment to a fixed Parliament: so the next general election date should be already set for the first Thursday of May 2015: personally I would prefer an October electoral timetable, but May it will now have to be. It includes provisions for a referendum on AV for the House of Commons and to address the constitutional problems that Labour has left with its partial devolution set up. It contains detailed policy agendas for education and the economy.
It is only a start, but with Liberal Democrats not merely providing a critique, but actual and substantive proposals, it is also a challenge to the party: can the new more collaborative and open politics we propose actually function in practice?
The British people will be waiting to give a verdict, but it will be over the full five years that the judgement must be made, not the absurd hundred day timetables that the media likes to insist upon.
We must hope for the best and trust our new leaders- though perhaps only for as long as they can demonstrate that they deserve that trust.