The Week in Politics: The coalition boils over

Coalition's chef and deputy chef were awol this week
Coalition's chef and deputy chef were awol this week
Alex Stevenson By

David Cameron and Nick Clegg's Latin American adventures have led to trouble back in Westminster. Like a simmering pot left untended by its chef and deputy chef, coalition tempers have been boiling over this week.

Trouble has popped up in some very unexpected places. Like a random corridor at the G20 summit in Mexico, where Cameron found himself face-to-face with Argentinean president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The pair took the opportunity to indulge in some histrionics over the Falkland Islands. Not quite what the prime minister is accustomed to on the world stage.

That left deputy PM Clegg representing Britain at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development in Brazil. This was something of a non-event, according to the despairing environmental campaigners who have once again been let down by the negotiators. But Clegg was ready to pick a fight all the same, digging in his heels against Michael Gove's plan to bring back O-levels. The Rio summit might have got an Unclassified grade, but the Liberal Democrat leader earned at least C+ for effort.

For the first time since May 2010 it was up to William Hague to stand in for the PM at prime minister's questions. Given that he first took to the despatch box in opposition on this occasion back in 1997, it was something of a landmark for the foreign secretary. He was masterful, as usual, but even he might have been surprised by an unexpected question from backbench grumbler Peter Bone. He demanded a "divorce from the yellow peril" as early as the spring of 2014. If such an event does come to pass, that will be the story this week is remembered for.

Sandwiching all this coalition trouble were two slices of Labour bread. At the start of the week Miliband outlined his plan to fight this November's police and crime commissioner elections as a sort of national referendum on the coalition's law and order policies. It ended with his big speech on immigration, an earnest attempt to distance himself from Labour's 'British jobs for British workers' approach. The referendum on New Labour has already taken place, of course - in May 2010.

This was also the week of some rather bizarre stories. A comedian lost a fight with a politician when David Cameron's attack on Jimmy Carr led to some desperate damage limitation and grovelling over his tax affairs. Alastair Campbell and The Thick Of It creator Armando Iannucci sparred over the latter's 'establishment' OBE. And a Lib Dem minister got in trouble for talking down England's chances at Euro 2012. A terrible error, if ever there was one. It doesn't matter that, in their heart of hearts, most England fans would agree with Jeremy Brown's assessment of the team's chances. When it comes to foreign policy, the only line is that England will prevail. It works for the Falklands, after all...


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