Public Affairs: Soap Box - John Lehal, MD, Insight Public Affairs

A new year and a new start.

As the UK returned fully to work on Monday, the coalition renewed its vows with the publication of the Mid-Term Review.

The coalition endured a difficult year in 2012. The sluggish economy, the 'omnishambles', and the Leveson Inquiry all presented huge challenges to the unity of the Government. A narrative of being 'out of touch' posh boys took hold.

So the Government is hoping the Mid-Term Review signals mid-term renewal. Certainly the 226 policies suggest this is a government with renewed vigour. The themes of childcare, social care, pensions, home ownership, roads and freedoms will see an ambitious legislative programme.

Despite some bruising encounters, the personal relationship between David Cameron and Nick Clegg is as strong as it was in the Rose Garden in May 2010. In many departments, Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers are working seamlessly in defence of the 'proalition'.

The difficulty is that 250 or so government backbenchers are increasingly restless, and the Government will test them further in the months ahead. Economic austerity will continue to bite, as more cuts are announced in the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review.

Furthermore, internal battles loom on issues such as Europe, gay marriage and the welfare budget, raising the possibility of more backbench rebellions.

As the 2010 parliamentary intake focus increasingly on defending their seats, they will be keen to demonstrate their independence.

The Prime Minister and his deputy are undoubtedly 'steadfast and united', but the difficulty is the relationship between the Government and backbenchers.

What is certain is that 2013 looks equally, if not more, challenging than last year.

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