Britain’s coalition government is a relationship on the rocks, the BBC has described it as a “marriage where the couple is trying its best to keep it together but the children and in-laws are squabbling”.
Two years ago it was all smiles and pats on the back for Nick Clegg and David Cameron in a full-blown love-in. Even before the election, David was saying in electoral debates how much he agreed with Nick, then once they were together it was smiling, joking and further flattery. Now, as in so many rushed marriages, the cracks are starting to show. This is the political equivalent of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, anyone can tell you it will eventually end in acrimony but Dave and Nick soldier on. Nick Clegg’s beloved Liberal Democrats got down to some serious ass-kissing to put this government together – still ending up with few places in the Cabinet and Nick as Deputy Prime Minister (essentially the tea boy). Whenever they appeared in the press, Nick and Dave were the best of friends.
There were university fee hikes which the Lib Dems had promised would not happen if they were elected. Embarrassing images of Lib Dem MPs stood among students, a party manifesto held up and a big grin on their face returned to haunt Mr Clegg. From being one of the most liked men in Britain during his campaign, Nick was dubbed a spineless, brown-nose; he went from dashing to his car to avoid being snapped by adoring paparazzi to trying to avoid student unions lynching him. Nick did not blame David, but the everyone blamed Nick.
Another point of the coalition agreement: alternative voting! What? Isn’t this that referendum on proportional voting representation reform which went so abysmally for the Lib Dems that no one would have begrudged Mr Clegg a little cry in the House Commons? Why, yes it is!
Nick was now nothing for two, and each time the Conservatives had pissed in his cornflakes. Minute success was achieved in raising the income tax threshold, but that was comparable to an dog owner feeding their pooch a treat as they nodded to the vet that it was okay to put the bugger down. Each local election has seen the Lib Dems losing seats and a definite spike in the number of wicker Nick Clegg effigies being immolated.
The most recent offering from the tea boy to the master has been House of Lords reform. Liberal Democrats wanted a mostly elected upper house, doing away with many hereditary and appointed peers. The Conservatives were less than impressed, as this would essentially be attacking their retirement. Voting took place to sure up a timetable for reform, Conservative rebels stuck up two fingers to the entire process and the timetable was never set. Then the Prime Minister was silly enough to do what no lying husband should: told the truth. He had no power to lessen the 91 Tory rebels – the bill is essentially dead, a bloated duck floating feet up in the water.
Though he admitted he had to ditch Lord reforms, which Chancellor George Osborne claims will allow more focus on the economy (in George’s mind this just means a few more rapacious cuts), Nick grew teeth and a spine at last, after years of resounding defeats, to issue an honest-to-god threat. The Lib Dems shall vote against proposed boundary changes, robbing the Conservatives of a possible 20 seat advantage. In the current 650 member House of Commons, the Tories have just 306 seats so cannot push through legislation. Their proposed changes would see just 600 members, conveniently allowing them to do whatever they bloody well pleased. “No more”, said Nick Clegg on behalf submissive partners everywhere, “You’ll have to get your own bloody tea!” I suspect David will be spending his nights on the sofa from now on.
Perhaps by 2015, we shall see the Prime Minister and his Deputy on a special edition of Jeremy Kyle, one about political infidelity methinks.
- Nick Clegg blocks boundary changes after Lords reform retreat (guardian.co.uk)
- You: Coalition deadlock as Nick Clegg and David Cameron veto each other (guardian.co.uk)
- Clegg ‘to admit defeat on Lords’ (bbc.co.uk)
- Nick Clegg shows his true colours on equal votes (telegraph.co.uk)
- Tories ‘have broken the coalition contract’ – Nick Clegg (scotsman.com)
- David Cameron: Louise Mensch resigns and Nick Clegg instructs Lib Dem MP’S to vote against Boundary Review Bill (dailymail.co.uk)