Blue-on-Blue Incidents Increase Amongst Coalition Forces


There have been more ‘friendly fire’ or ‘blue-on-blue’ in incidents as Coalition Forces marshall for the offensive in October.

Technically of course Vince Cable’s assault on the Coalition governments immigration policies is an ‘orange on blue’ incident. To that extent it breaks a pattern of mainly fully blue-on-blue clashes in recent weeks.

The biggest clashes have been between George Osborne (Blue – Chancellor) and Iain Duncan Smith (Blue – Work and Pensions Secretary) over the benefits budget. Duncan Smith, no stranger he to real warfare, is leading the charge for radical changes to benefits that will bring long-term reductions (he says) but will cost in the short-term. Mr Osborne (a complete stranger to real warfare) has been lobbing WDMs at IDS, in the form of a supposed additional £4 billion cut in the benefits budget. IDS promptly denied any such ordnance had landed at DWP HQ, as the fog of war descended.

The other big clash has been over at the MOD, where Liam ‘Foxy’ Fox has been trying to park a Trident submarine on the Treasury lawn (not an easy task, it’s not really designed for amphibious assault). In a resort to guerilla warfare, MOD let it be known that if they had to pay for Trident, they’d probably have to scrap the Ghurkhas. This was clearly designed to activate a secret weapon, codename LUMLEY, which caused serious damage to several Ministers in the previous administration (Phil Woolas apparently still has PTSD).

What is remarkable about many of these clashes is just how quickly Ministers have gone native in “their” Whitehall Departments. The divisions over the Spending Review are largely structured around departments, not the parties to the Coalition. And if things are getting this fratricidal over what will be, after all, just a plan then imagine what it’s going to get like when they have to start implementing it? Can the centre hold? We’ll see, but it’s not looking good. And over at the Institute for Government a report has just been published saying that the main cause of coalition collapses has been, you guessed, disputes over financial issues.

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About Colin Talbot

Professor of Government. Universities of Cambridge and Manchester, England.
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