I caused a minor stir with some viewers on Sunday night’s programme when I threw in a reference to the “Conservative-led coalition” prompting a brief debate on twitter which, unusually, has changed my mind about the use of the phrase .
I caused a minor stir with some viewers on Sunday night’s programme when I threw in a reference to the “Conservative-led coalition” prompting a brief debate on twitter which, unusually, has changed my mind about the use of the phrase . I’ve always been uncomfortable with the way the media have dubbed the new government “The Coalition”. Removing the party identities removes the focus of praise and blame, making them a new political entity before they have become one merged party and for many people the word “coalition” is laden with positive values.
I felt Ed Miliband’s new spin doctor Tom Baldwin had a fair point of concern when he raised the issue recently so I thought from now on I will vary my language more and at different times refer to “the government”, “the coalition”, “the Conservative-led coalition” and the “Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition” – all of which seem to be accurate. But here’s now the twitter conversation went with Hugo Rifkind of The Times, former Tory aide Danny Finkelstein now also of The Times (these Times people seem very keen on Twitter – have you noticed?), Patrick Hennessy of the Sunday Telegraph and me :
@hugorifkind : what’s with the miliband-inspired “conservative-led coalition business!??” Was that for a bet?
@krishgm : just a bit of variety – it isn’t wrong is it?
@hugorifkind : well no but ed milliteam were lobbying for usage last week. Just a bit depressing it worked. But it is both true and fair, suppose.
@krishgm : i don’t have a problem with coalition, lib dem/conservative coalition, conservative led coalition. they all accurate
@HugoRifkind : OK, but forests is Chris huhne’s remit, right? So could argue that Tory point is not strictly relevant. (Will shut up now)
@krishgm concern noted! [altho Hugo was actually wrong about Chris Huhne – forests is Tory Caroline Spelman’s department]
@Dannythefink : conservative led coalition is a value-laden, political description. It asserts something libs deny. It’s not neutral.
@krishgm I see. Ok. Point taken Maybe it should just be “conservative-lib dem coalition” from now
@PatJHennessy : Dont buckle! Conservative-led coalition is exactly what it is and perfectly fine.
@krishgm : @hugorifkind @dannythefink has convinced me, I think
@krishgm: news language needs to stay neutral. If the phrase is so controversial it is best avoided. But agree “coalition” inadequate
@PatHennessy : Not controversial at all and perfectly neutral. Just @Dannythefink talking b0ll0 !
So at the end of this exchange here’s what I think : I believe it is fair to describe the coalition as “conservative led” because there are far more Conservatives in it, their policies dominate the coalition agreement and the key offices of state (PM, Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary) are all held by Conservatives. However I can see there is a Liberal Democrat argument that no coalition is strictly “led” because it is a coalition – an agreement based on compromise in which all parties are technically equal. So the use of “Conservative-led” becomes value-laden as to use it is to dismiss the Liberal Democrat argument and agree with a Labour spin doctor. So because of the associated controversy my own view is currently that I should avoid the phrase. However the exclusive use of “coalition” feels equally unfair and controversial so I think I should use a variety of different, accurate terms : government, coalition, Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, Conservative and Lib Dem government, etc. Unless anyone can convince me of a different position. Of course it is perfectly likely that my editors, who usually settle such dilemmas, might make a ruling (knowing my luck they already have and I am in breach of it). But I’m keen to know what you think. Either here or on twitter.