You can say many things about our Prime Minister, but he’s not stupid. Nor is he completely without guile when it comes to managing the media.
Yesterday was Golden Thursday, today the highlight of the Olympics – the athletics – kicks off. As I noted earlier this week, no-one cares about politics at the moment.
So what better time to bury bad news – and a coalition?
Yesterday evening Cameron slipped his first bit of bad news under the wire. George Osborne will remain a Chancellor until at least the next election. The man who has done this to the economy will be encouraged to do more damage. The pyromaniac has run out of matches, so Dave hands him a flamethrower to finish the job. Awful news for everyone in the country with two exceptions. Osborne of course, who still has a career (for now), and Ed Balls, who would have been bereft without his favourite Tory chew toy.
Evidently noting that Osborne’s stay of execution had barely rippled the pond of the British consciousness (how could he compete with the thighs of the mighty Sir Hoy, the never say die spirit of Gemma Gibbons, and the furious exertion (and expulsion) of Pendleton?) Cameron took his chance to squeeze out another golden nugget of bad news. Lords reform, it seems, is dead.
What a huge surprise… I am shocked, SHOCKED, that the Tory Party aren’t that interested in removing entrenched priviledge and patronage from our legislature, despite their feeble protestations to the contrary.
Yet this is not just another bit of bad news parped out late at night to those few political obsessives who are still paying attention. This is a potential coalition killer. Just a few weeks ago Nick Clegg emailed his members saying:
“When we return in the autumn to vote on this again, we fully expect the Conservatives to deliver this crucial part of the Coalition deal – as we have delivered other Coalition policies.”
And now Cameron has canned it. After tuition fees, the shambolic budgets, control orders and NHS “reform” all made their way past Clegg and co, I had begun to believe that they’ll swallow anything. But surely not even this passive bunch will swallow this?
If the Lib Dems follow their AV humiliation with failure to reform the Lords, what will they have got out of this coalition exactly? Effectively nothing (unless they kill the boundary review). And even then, is that really an acheivement for 5 years in government, stopping one bit of legislation but losing out on your party’s raison d’etre – democratic reform?. Their press office might tartly argue that they are “running the country”, but it’s clear that the Tory Right (despite feeling powerless) actually have more control over the government’s agenda than the Lib Dems. And if the yellows don’t believe that now then they never will.
And when you factor in the fact that the Lib Dems might need to leave the government before the election to balance the books, then you have a very dangerous cocktail indeed. And David Cameron might just have picked the middle of the Olympics as the time to collapse the coalition government.
Hold on tight folks, the rest of 2012 is going to be a bumpy ride.