David Cameron has decided (been forced to) permit his cabinet colleagues to campaign against his government's stance on membership of the EU, and Jeremy Corbyn has failed to sack ( been prevented from sacking) Hilary Benn for openly opposing him on the issue of bombing Syria. So that means more of our leading politicians are going to say what they believe rather than what they've been told to say.
One of the earliest mistakes Nick Clegg made when we joined the Conservatives in coalition in 2010 was to announce that we Liberal Democrats must "own" all the coalition did: we could not "pick and choose." As far as I can remember those were his exact words.
At the time I thought it was foolish. It meant that our parliamentary party was forced to support and therefore be complicit in policies which went very much against the party's traditions and beliefs. The highly illiberal and counter-productive (and, as it has turned out, failed) economic policy of "expansionary contraction" is one example - totally against the teachings of the Liberal Keynes, and the experience and evidence of the post-war years. The denigration and punishment of those dependent on social security, and especially the disabled, is another - totally against the compassion and positive action of the Liberal Beveridge, again so successful in the post-war years.
It is surely unnecessary to apply the same conventions (an that's all they are - not laws) to coalitions as to those previously thought appropriate to single party government, and the concept of collective responsibility - that all members of the government must support everything the government does, is one of them.
In forming a coalition it should be possible, in the negotiations, for the parties to differentiate;
- those issues on which we all agree and on which we shall campaign and vote together;
- those on which the minor party (or parties) have alternative views, but on which it is agreed that the view of the major party must prevail, and so the minor party will offer "confidence and supply" (ie not bring down the government);
- those issue on which the minor party (or parties) reserve the right to campaign and vote independently.
So now that "toeing the party line, or else" has been discarded by both the major parties, maybe this heralds an era of more genuine debate which is the essence of democracy, defined by some as "government by discussion."