Cameron and Clegg head to New World as Coalition civil war flares
While the Tory and Lib Dem leaders fly off to G20 and Rio+20 summits, their MPs are fighting for the soul of the government
WHILE PARADING himself as a world leader on the global stage at the G20 summit in Mexico, David Cameron would be wise to take notice that back home, Conservative backbenchers are threatening to man the barricades.
As Cameron settled down in Business Class on his flight to sunny Los Cabos with Chancellor George Osborne and a bunch of British company fat cats, Tory MP Eleanor Laing must have been far away from his thoughts.
Beefy Sky News political editor Adam Boulton (in Chub class at the back) Tweeted: "Just heading off to G20 in Mexico with Cameron and Osborne's flight. Ex-HSBC minister Stephen Green and business types also aboard."
Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader and deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was off to the Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio. Revolution at home must have seemed as remote as a summer heatwave in Britain for Cameron.
Eleanor Laing is not one of nature's Tory rebels. She was promoting Thatcherism when Cameron was barely out of short trousers and had just joined the Conservative Central Office as a researcher.
A former special adviser to John MacGregor (education secretary in the Thatcher government), before replacing Steve Norris as the Conservative MP for Epping Forest, she is an ultra-loyalist. But Laing went public at the weekend over her determination to unite with like-minded Tory MPs to kill the bill to create an elected House of Lords, which Tories see as a Lib Dem reform that could destroy Parliamentary democracy as we know it.
"I have not voted against my party or its leader for 15 years," she told The Sunday Telegraph. "Why are we supposed to bend over backwards to support Nick Clegg over something that only matters to Lib Dems when his party cannot support a fellow minister who has done nothing wrong?"
This threatens a damaging tit-for-tat attack on Nick Clegg and their Lib Dem "colleagues" that could herald the end of the Coalition. The Lib Dems' refusal to vote with the Government to support Jeremy Hunt, the Culture Secretary, over the Labour call for him to be investigated over his handling of BSkyB has provided the catalyst for a palace revolution.
The Lib Dems are dismissive. BBC Westminster Hour presenter Carolyn Quinn Tweeted a quote on her show from Lib Dem John Thurso accusing the Tories of "having a temper tantrum - childish behaviour".
Cameron has been trying to placate his own MPs by tossing them a few titbits lately - the showdown by Home Secretary Theresa May with the European Court of Human Rights over 'right to family life’ rules; a crack down on students who overstay their immigration visas; the promise by communities secretary Eric Pickles to tackle problem families; and the announcement to be confirmed this week by Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, that he is going ahead with a £1bn order for nuclear reactors for nuclear subs. The latter decision is guaranteed to infuriate the Lib Dems, who want to stop the Trident nuclear force being replaced with a like-for-like weapon system.
But none of this has satisfied demands by Tory backbenchers for a truly Conservative Government. Cameron, according to Nadine Dories - another of his own MPs - is seen as a "posh boy", out of touch with ordinary voters.
Matthew d'Ancona, the respected political Tory commentator, pointed out in the Telegraph yesterday that Dave can't use his slogan ‘We're all in this together’ again without causing guffaws after the cringe-making text message by Rebekah Brooks telling him: "Professionally, we are definitely in this together."
But far more worrying for Dave is that he's now out of touch with his own side. A reshuffle is long overdue. He's either got to start listening to the likes of Mrs Laing when he gets back from Mexico, or at least give her a job in government to shut her up.