The Week in Review: Tories are their own worst enemy

Keep smiling: Cameron among his worst enemies.
Keep smiling: Cameron among his worst enemies.
Ian Dunt By

The Tories will not behave. They are no longer the party of law-and-order. They are, frankly,  very naughty indeed. If David Cameron needed any further proof he manages an ungovernable mob he had only to look at Mark Reckless' amendment on the EU budget. It was, of course, impossible, but Tory backbenchers did it anyway.

Like some duplicitous estate agent, Ed Balls had watched the storm with his usual mixture of unrestrained self-interest and political savvy. Labour umed-and-ahed for a while and then announced it would whip its MPs into supporting the rebel amendment.

Lefty pro-Europeans had to swallow their own tongue as they watched Labour MPs troop in to vote with the Tories. It was ugly, unprincipled stuff, but good politics. The coalition was hit by its first Commons defeat. (The scale of rebellion was less than during the first anti-EU row or House of Lords reform, but on both those instances Labour voted with the government.)

The next day, Nick Clegg felt buoyant enough to talk about power transfers being a "false promise wrapped in a Union Jack". It has a certain poo sensibility to it, that sentence, as if his conversations with the prime minister now centre on lying and defecation.

Even George Osborne decided it was time to start throwing mud around, as he told the Today programme that Labour reminded him of the dark old days of William Hague's leadership. Things will be cheery between the two good old boys when they next have a cup of tea.

There were more Tory-Lib Dem fights over wind farms and Trident - neither of them particularly appetising, both suggesting rather strenuously that the government is in a state of perpetual disarray from which it may never recover.

Michael Heseltine (you remember him – deposed Thatcher, sort of, and tried to attack someone with the parliamentary mace) entered stage left, with a report suggesting – deeply radical this – public and private sectors could possibly work together for the good of the country. He was massively off-message. It was like an echo of old-fashioned one-nation Conservatism. To most of the 2010 intake, it would have sounded like some insane foreign language, as if someone read a group of hoodies a passage from Chaucer. The government briefed against him, Labour supported him. It wasn't so different to the EU budget really, but from the opposite direction.

Labour nimbly made good use of the EU budget debate, but it failed with most of the other catastrophes to hand. Miliband was a tad too pleased with himself at PMQs and he had problems of his own. Austin Mitchell thought it would be funny if he wrote a tweet to former Tory MP Louise Mensch (ex chick-lit writer, Conservative heart-throb, quit to spend more time with her family and not in a bad way). Unfortunately his tweet saw him call her a "good little girl" and demanding she obey her "master". He was referring to her husband, who she'd had a public spat with over the weekend, but you’d be forgiven for reading a bit of 50 Shades into it.

Then Denis MacShane (came tenth in our 'best MPs on Twitter' List, sometimes pretends to be a general manager who never existed) was suspended for a year because of his expenses. That's it for him really. You can’t survive something like that. Labour withdrew the whip but at the time of going to press, so to speak, he hadn’t quit. He surely will. For the time being he's raving something about the BNP. Not going quietly into that good night.

Labour and the Lib Dems do their best, but the greatest danger the Conservative's face is themselves.


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