Westminster bubble could burst coalition

The fractious parties in the coalition may choose to regroup and reassess during this period when the nation's attention is focused on the US election and the horrific child abuse scandals casting a shadow on major institutions.

John Woodcock: 'Acoustics of the Westminster bubble distort politics in a way that can make politicians seem even more out of touch'
John Woodcock: 'Acoustics of the Westminster bubble distort politics in a way that can make politicians seem even more out of touch'

Assuming, that is, they are astute enough to realise they have something of a space to reflect, for the acoustics of the Westminster bubble have a tendency to amplify and distort domestic politics in a way that can make politicians seem even more out of touch.

The way many of us get our current affairs is a prime example of the bubble effect. It is easy for ministers and MPs to go through the working week on a rarified news diet of the Today programme, a pre-prepared brief of the day’s political stories and Newsnight, all supplemented with glances at the Politics Home website and constant snacking on the tweets of selected lobby journalists and fellow MPs.

Quite aside from occasionally leaving politicians completely ignorant of non-political household names, reliance on such media channels can reflect and reinforce a sense of the importance of the dramas of SW1 that the public has not even registered.

Given how destructive the past fortnight has been for the governing parties, it is an enormous blessing for the coalition that the public’s gaze has been elsewhere.

The Conservative Party has not yet come close to absorbing the shock of losing a House of Commons vote on the thorny old issue of Europe, and David Cameron seems aghast that Nick Clegg appears to be following through on his threat to sabotage the boundary changes that had previously been agreed.

The PM and his deputy ought to be worried about how this will play out. While most people have little interest in the machinations of Whitehall, they soon get a measure of the people they have selected to govern.

The idea the Tories and Liberal Democrats were coming together in the national interest was intensely powerful and left Labour at a loss; both sides of the coalition are now systematically undermining that claim in a way that may eventually cost them dear.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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