Wednesday, January 09, 2013

New Year, New You, Old Dave


Was it the thought of the portly figure of Lord Strathclyde tripping gaily through Hyde Park like a latter-day Oliver Hardy which made his Tory Cabinet colleagues so depressed as they gathered for the first Prime Ministers Questions of 2013?

Was it the realisation that they too face another two and a half years
of coalition government the now ex-leader of the House of Lords could not bear to contemplate which accounted for the look of indifferent despair on the government front bench?

Or, could it just have been the fact that 2013 had kicked off with the same sort of cock-up which turned last year into a home-grown disaster gifting Labour an unexpected and even unmerited 12 point lead in the polls?

You knew there was trouble when Dave, fresh-faced on Monday from a fortnight playing Lego with his kids, turned up for PMQs with the alarming flush which marked so many of his appearances last year.

Normally, he would have spent the morning working out his attack on Ed Miliband which was to be a follow up to last night's vote on benefit cuts. Chancellor George had aimed to dig himself out of last year's troubles with this cunning plan to put Labour on the spot.

This was planned to be day three of "the new year new me" refresh of Dave, George and the Government after last year's little local difficulties. But, this was before the Daily Telegraph disloyally produced a story revealing that Mondays Coalition re-launch forgot to publish a document detailing what they had failed to deliver during their first two and a half years.

Among Dave's other bizarre promises on taking office was a promise to list any failures of the incoming Government as evidence of its new openness. Ten minutes with Alistair Campbell would have killed off this one. But, it went ahead and emerged this morning to bite the PM firmly on his well brought up backside.

To add insult to injury the damage was done an by an eagle-eyed Telegraph snapper who spotted a document being carried into No 10 by one of Dave's aides- whose career trajectory is no doubt being re-calibrated as you read this. (You'd think by now that all Government documents taken into No 10 should be shoved down the carrier's pants.)

The Telegraph has never really taken to Dave since he became PM and is happy to put the boot in on a regular basis on behalf of a recidivist readership which is still trying to reconcile gay marriage and the Lib Dems with the party they know and love.

So, a headline revealing the 70 promises the Coalition had broken was enough to give Ed an extra hour in bed and Dave the certain knowledge that 2013 was going to start as badly as 2012 had ended.

Thus Ed was on his feet for only a few seconds before having the pleasure of calling on the now ruddy-red PM, to calm down before he seriously damaged himself. Dave tried to bounce back by revealing that Ed had spent part of the seasonal break in the Canary Islands - although it should be money-back time for the Labour leader whose face betrayed its usual ghostly pallor.

The Labour side roared with relief as the Government's own goal got them off the hook on benefits and the Tory side roared with equal rage at being ankle deep in the odure once again.

Meanwhile Chancellor George and his shadow Ed Balls ignored what was going on around them to welcome in the new year by directly swopping seasonal insults of their own. As Dave's personal contribution to the National Grid increased down his front bench faces just got glummer and glummer.

Home Secretary Theresa May looked as if she had spent the night in one of her own establishments and Ken Clarke gave off all the grumpiness of someone suddenly awakened from a long sleep. William Hague was clearly hoping for the
Foreign part of his job to kick in quickly.

The only relaxed faces in there Government trenches seem to lie with those with Lib Dems lucky enough to take the Queen's shilling and the other chauffeur driven benefits which go with being a Government Minister. For them, two and a half years in any government must still be a dream to be pinched awake from.

None more so than Lib Dem leader and Deputy PM Nick Clegg who, despite re-plighting his troth on Monday, still seemed relaxed to see partner Dave take a few where the sun don't shine. Vince Cable, it must be said, positively grimaced.

If Johnny Strathclyde had paused to watch, he must have smiled.