By Ray Fleming

THE first chapter of the new politics in Britain ended on Tuesday as the parliamentary summer recess began. It is time to take stock. One point immediately calls for attention --the MPs will be back at the beginning of September instead of in late-October as in the past. This is one of a number of parliamentary reforms of which the strengthening of Select Committees and the secret election of their chairmen are perhaps the most important. At the same time bad old habits die hard -- witness the hustling through of Michael Gove's Academies legislation this week with whipped votes and a guillotine on debate.

The Lib-Con coalition part of the new politics has successfully introduced the British people to the idea -- rubbished for so long -- that coalitions can actually work. How long this one will survive is still an open question which was underlined by a couple of polls this week: the first showing that four out of ten Lib Dem voters would not have supported the party at the election if a coalition with the Conservatives had been in prospect; and the second showing a 38-34 percent split between Conservatives and Labour with the Lib Deb's trailing on 19 per cent. But these are early days: the test for the coalition will come when George Osborne's cuts take effect, increasing unemployment and hitting many services on which the poorer part of the population depends.


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