PoliticsHome | Only the latest five entries on the PhiWire are visible to non-subscribers
- Sign up to see last 24 hours
Dont have an account?Sign up here
Monday 7th January 2013 | 23:41
WORDS: SAM MACRORY
The sun wasn’t shining. The roses have long since wilted. The guests looked jaded. Two and half years on from their bonhomie-infused unveiling of the Coalition, David Cameron and Nick Clegg have reaffirmed their vows in public. But gone was the old sparkle, the stolen glances, the nervous flirtation.
“We are married, not to each other. We are happily married. This is a government, not a relationship," David Cameron declared to the assembled media in a gathering to launch the publication of the Government’s mid-term review.
The Prime Minister seemed to be offering his own interpretation of 70s art rock romantics 10cc’s finest hour. They’re not in love – no, it was just a silly phase that he and Nick Clegg went through.
Clegg, a ghostly pale compared to Cameron’s ruddy glow, stared wistfully into the middle distance as the PM spoke. Occasionally he nodded half-heartedly. Mostly, though, he just stared. Big boys don’t cry, as the peculiar middle section of the song goes.
Mr Cameron, on the other hand, fixed his eyes on Mr Clegg throughout the Deputy Prime Minister’s turn at the microphone, his face set rigidly in furrow-browed concentration. Was I really going out with him? he seemed to be asking. Well, yes. But, he was at pains to stress, only because I had to – and the relationship was entirely business-based all along.
No passion here. This was a practical arrangement. “It is a Ronseal deal,” Cameron said, handing the history books of the future a ready-made shorthand. “It does what it says on the tin. We said we would come together, we said we would form a government, we said we would tackle these big problems. That is exactly what we have done."
So it’s comparable with a tin. And one that contains a product that seals wood and dries quickly. Back in 2010, when Nick Clegg promised the ‘biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832’, and David Cameron vowed to ‘completely change the way our country is run’, they probably hoped for more.
Mr Clegg shot the PM a mischievous glance. “Ronseal Government…. You could say it’s the unvarnished truth,” he joked, prompting a thin-lipped grin from Mr Cameron and groans from the audience. “Well I thought it was funny…” the Deputy Prime Minister mumbled in protestation. The cracks in the coalition were all too obvious. Not even heavy duty Ronseal would work here.
They had, Mr Clegg protested, “learned lessons” – at this point he glanced nervously at the Prime Minister as if to ask: we did, didn’t we? But Cameron seemed keener to let everyone know that the love that once bound this coalition was never real. “It was a hung Parliament. I didn’t have a majority”, he protested when asked if he believed in the effectiveness of Coalition Governments. And if he emerged with a majority of just one next time around? “I will be fighting for a Conservative victory and a Conservative majority government. That is what I want to achieve.” Not just spurned, but spurned in public. Nick Clegg’s gaze returned to the middle distance.
But what if the Coalition falls out openly, as it did over Liberal Democrat-led plans to reform the House of Lords? “Well, we're going to tweak the package” Clegg promised. That’s one way to restore a bit of sparkle to a fading relationship.
Be briefed for £1.50 a week...PoliticsHome PRO Find out more