The week in review: Good Cameron 3, Bad Cameron 3
Here are three reasons why David Cameron had a good week and three reasons why he had a bad one. Something for everyone, really.
Let's start with the bad. This was the week when chancellor George Osborne's resistance folded to imposing a limit on the amount payday loan companies are able to charge their customers. It was an embarrassing U-turn and an example of a government in retreat. Cameron was badgered over the issue at PMQs, but it turned into a furiously shouty agreement session and the PM got away with a 1-1- draw.
This was also the week when the controversial badger cull, which ministers have defended despite the very limited scientific basis the killing rested on, was abandoned as a failure. Sometimes governments get it wrong but doing so rarely costs so many lives – or so much political capital.
This morning it looked like a third huge setback was underway: the suggestion that next week's autumn statement might see the government attempting to persuade the big six energy companies to hold prices until 2015. The Treasury has denied the story, meaning it will not be on the news tonight. Instead of being a bad news story for the coalition, we found ourselves looking at spiked coverage of Labour's own energy green paper.
Now for the flip side of the coin: three reasons why the prime minister actually had a pretty good seven days, after all.
First came a washout from north of the border. The Scottish government's independence white paper managed to be literally heavy and figuratively lightweight. Its assumption that the sterling currency union would be permitted by the rump UK seemed a bit optimistic. With Cameron continuing his strategically astute approach of keeping his nose well and truly out of the debate, his chances of becoming the PM who saved the union have gone up another notch.
Then came the extraordinary error from Boris Johnson of telling it like it is. The London mayor's defence of greed and envy as Good Things has very truthfully revealed the fundamental selfishness at the heart of Conservatism – or so I argued in an unusually opinionated outburst on the website this week. Coming so fast on Boris' speech to the Tory party conference, when he raised eyebrows by telling an audience of right-wingers they ought to pull themselves together on immigration, Dave will be getting much more relaxed about the leadership threat from his floppy-haired Bullingdon rival.
Finally we had immigration. Cameron has a tricky task in getting an overall majority – or even an underall minority – in 2015. So he needs every vote he can get. With Ukip threatening his right flank and the media getting worked up about a feared wave of Romanian and Bulgarian arrivals next year, the time was ripe to complete a very potent cocktail by stirring in a dash of euroscepticism and a sprinkling of benefits. The result was deeply depressing – and undoubtedly vote-winning – for the PM.
Cameron has had a good week, but for one man this couldn't have got much worse. All week our editor Ian's been following the story of Isa Muazu, who was deported to Nigeria despite outrage from campaigners. He hasn't eaten for 90 days and many feared he would not survive the flight. His supporters haven't heard from him since 02:00 this morning.