With Tories defeated by Lib Dems voting on ‘principle’, until the next election they must still cling on to each other, all at sea
Yet another disaster! It’s a pandemic-shambles! On Tuesday the government lost a crucial vote which may well cost them the next election, there was a Tory revolt, the coalition split, and Gordon Brown was sighted in the Commons. This is the equivalent of the apes leaving the Tower of London, or the ravens quitting Gibraltar, or the other way round. It is never good news.
On a cheerier note, the French employment minister has declared that his country is bankrupt. This hasn’t yet happened here for one reason – we don’t have an employment minister.
And George Osborne has found someone to blame for the coming triple-dip recession and the imminent loss of the AAA status which we were told was as vital to our economy as bamboo shoots to a bulemic panda. Yes, it’s the last government! Again! Labour’s Ian Austin told the chancellor he had previously blamed our predicament on snow, floods, holidays, Americans, Europeans, the Queen’s jubilee – and “he even blamed her grandson for getting married. Whose fault is it this time?”
“I have been very consistent in blaming that lot opposite,” said Mr Osborne, lamely. Ministers seem to have almost given up. The country is ungrateful and now parliament is ungrateful. As part of my campaign for better Titanic metaphors, I’d compare them to the SS Californian, steaming away from the wreck as the flares shoot skyward, passengers scream and the band plays Nearer My God, To Thee.
The great boundaries debate began soon after Treasury questions. Tories are furious and bitter at being abandoned by the Lib Dems, whom they loathe anyway as a bunch of pious creeps. Michael Fabricant, back on the backbenches, re-wired as an elder statesman, pointed out that Nick Clegg once called the changes a “simple principle of fairness”.
“Do Liberal Democrats not do principle on the 29th of the month, or is it just on Tuesdays?” he asked, adding, “I’m curious.”
“Yes, you are!” yelled one Labour MP.
Viscount Thurso, possibly the only parliamentarian to be kicked out of the Lords then voted into the Commons, gave a magnificent stately home of a speech. Sir Peter Bottomley made the mistake of trying to quote the former Liberal leader Jo Grimond at him. The viscount treated him in the way he might have spoken to a butler who had started doing karaoke at the dinner table. “I had the great privilege of meeting Jo Grimond many times. He met his wife in my grandfather’s house …” he said. Upstairs people knew each other and always agreed with each other.
And, he pointed out, the Tories had only themselves to blame for the fact that the Lords had thrown the boundary changes out, because it was they who, by refusing Lords reform, had protected “the great, the good, the wise, the academics, the apoliticals, the public servants and the generals, who came together in their wisdom and gave us this clause”.
But the two parties are stuck with each other, like a pair of shipwreck survivors. One has the food and the other is sitting on the water barrel. Neither can hurl the other into the sea, however much he’d like to.