The coalition’s next 100 days

Some key dates for your political diary.

If you read only one piece on the coalition's first 100 days in office I'd recommend Tim Montgomerie's recent NS article on the ten moments that define David Cameron's time in power. Combine this with Mehdi Hasan's account of the coalition's shock-and-awe assault on the state for a full understanding of the political significance of the government's reforms.

But what of the coalition's next 100 days? Here are some key dates for your political diary.

25 September: New Labour leader announced

The day David Cameron will learn who he'll face across the despatch box.

7 October: Shadow cabinet election results

The day ministers learn who'll be shadowing them in parliament.

20 October: Spending Review

The day we'll learn just how large the cuts to non-ring-fenced departments (everything except Health and International Development) are going to be. The review will set out spending plans for the years 2011/2012 to 2014/2015. Most budgets are expected to be cut by roughly 25 per cent, but George Osborne's promise to spare the defence and education funds from the worst means that some could be cut by up to 33 per cent.

26 October: Q3 GDP figures published

The first real test of the impact the coalition's economic policies have had on growth. Despite George Osborne's shameless attempt to take credit for the 1.1 per cent growth of the second quarter, less than a week of the period in question took place during the coalition's rule.

October (date TBC): Browne Review published

The long-awaited Browne review into higher education is due to be published some time in October. Around this date, we'll learn whether the coalition is fully committed to Vince Cable's proposal of a graduate tax.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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How Labour risks becoming a party without a country

Without establishing the role of Labour in modern Britain, the party is unlikely ever to govern again.

“In my time of dying, want nobody to mourn

All I want for you to do is take my body home”

- Blind Willie Johnson

The Conservative Party is preparing itself for a bloody civil war. Conservative MPs will tell anyone who wants to know (Labour MPs and journalists included) that there are 100 Conservative MPs sitting on letters calling for a leadership contest. When? Whenever they want to. This impending war has many reasons: ancient feuds, bad blood, personal spite and enmity, thwarted ambition, and of course, the European Union.

Fundamentally, at the heart of the Tory war over the European Union is the vexed question of ‘What is Britain’s place in the World?’ That this question remains unanswered a quarter of a century after it first decimated the Conservative Party is not a sign that the Party is incapable of answering the question, but that it has no settled view on what the correct answer should be.

The war persists because the truth is that there is no compromise solution. The two competing answers are binary opposites: internationalist or insular nationalist, co-habitation is an impossibility.

The Tories, in any event, are prepared to keep on asking this question, seemingly to the point of destruction. For the most part, Labour has answered this question: Britain will succeed as an outward looking, internationalist state. The equally important question facing the Labour Party is ‘What is the place of the Labour Party in modern Britain?’ Without answering this question, Labour is unlikely to govern ever again and in contrast to the Tories, Labour has so far refused to acknowledge that such a question is being asked of it by the people it was founded to serve. At its heart, this is a question about England and the rapidly changing nature of the United Kingdom.

In the wake of the 2016 elections, the approach that Labour needs to take with regard to the ‘English question’ is more important than ever before. With Scotland out of reach for at least a generation (assuming it remains within the United Kingdom) and with Labour’s share of the vote falling back in Wales in the face of strong challenges from Plaid Cymru and UKIP, Labour will need to rely upon winning vast swathes of England if we are to form a government in 2020.

In a new book published this week, Labour’s Identity Crisis, Tristram Hunt has brought together Labour MPs, activists and parliamentary candidates from the 2015 general election to explore the challenges facing Labour in England and how the party should address these, not purely as an electoral device, but as a matter of principle.

My contribution to the book was inspired by Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. The track list reads like the score for a musical tragedy based upon the Labour Party from 2010 onwards: In My Time of Dying, Trampled Underfoot, Sick Again, Ten Years Gone. 

Continued Labour introspection is increasingly tiresome for the political commentariat – even boring – and Labour’s Identity Crisis is a genuinely exciting attempt to swinge through this inertia. As well as exploring our most recent failure, the book attempts to chart the course towards the next Labour victory: political cartography at its most urgent.

This collection of essays represents an overdue effort to answer the question that the Party has sought to sidestep for too long.  In the run up to 2020, as the United Kingdom continues to atomise, the Labour Party must have an ambitious, compelling vision for England, or else risks becoming a party without a country.

Jamie Reed is Labour MP for Copeland.