Reality intrudes on new British political order
Britain’s new political order was on display in the House of Commons on Tuesday when Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg squeezed happily between Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague on the government front bench.
The house was packed and in an excited, start-of-term mood. Everything was going swimmingly, with former Conservative minister Peter Lilley cracking jokes as he gaves what is typically a light-hearted response to the Queen’s Speech.
Lilley played around with the apt description of the Lib Dems, settling for allies as he mused that partners might imply an inappropriate degree of intimacy.
Lilley told the house it was his wedding anniversary and was greeted by cheers. But when he turned to themore serious issue of coalitions, he made it clear that he regarded the current arrangement very much as a marriage of convenience.
He said he would not support changes to the voting system that makes hung parliaments the norm and would campaign vociferously against a switch to the Alternative Vote system when a referendum is held. For the Lib Dems such a change is the bare minimum.
The tensions between Conservatives and their new Lib Dem friends are bubbling below the bonhomie.