If you were so inclined, you could almost feel sorry for David Cameron.
Yesterday Boris took to the airwaves being utterly Borisly bonkers talking about “Kosovo style social cleansing” in relation to the coalition’s housing benefit proposals while pole cat Tebbit regaled us with “Vichy style betrayal” on the EU budget. Wow, it’s not exactly cricket is it?
Some us thought any tensions within the coalition would be between the two parties, Liberal-Democrat against Conservative. Instead we have Tory against Tory, and it’s stratospheric. The London Mayor goes leftie in a big way and a high-profile grandee delivers a devastating right-wing one liner.
One, of course, one is right while the other is wrong.
I never thought I would say that Boris Johnson is right, but he is on the proposed housing benefit cuts. There is general agreement that a cap on housing benefit will drive people out of high rent properties in central London. Local authorities in the capital have already block-booked bed and breakfast accommodation out of London, as reported in my blog post on Monday. Mark Field, Conservative MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said the same on the Today programme this morning.
As for Lord Tebbit, he is one of a number of Eurosceptics spitting blood at what they perceive as David Cameron’s failure. Daniel Hannan MEP on Channel 4 News yesterday evening and Roger Helmer MEP on the Today programme this morning were not at all shy in coming forward. Their message was simple and direct: Cameron should have stood firm and not agreed to any increase in the EU budget.
Roger Helmer’s argument is interesting if completely unrealistic. He thinks that Cameron should have held out against the treaty change Angela Merkel is demanding to improve the stability of the Euro, in return for a freeze in the EU budget.
In the event Cameron has gone with the European Council’s 2.9% with hardly a murmur. The claim by William Hague that Cameron has achieved some kind of consensus with other EU leaders that the next EU financial perspectives from 2014 to 2020 will take account of member states’ efforts to move their deficits on to a more realistic path will, I am sure, be seen as the political spin it obviously is. 2014 is a long time away and 2020 even further. Agreement on an unpredictable future which starts four years hence is really not difficult to find. We can all coalesce around a fantasy.
So the Tories are splitting, and the government has very little in the way of either a defence or constructive forward thinking.
We may well be seeing the beginning of Europe emerging in reality, as well as speculation, as the coalition’s fault line.
PS Just to give you further evidence that David Cameron was completely wrong to accuse Labour MEPs of voting in favour the EU budget last week, you may like to click on this link to the Channel 4 News blog fact checker.