James Forsyth

Exclusive: Cameron and Osborne ambush Lib Dems in Cabinet meeting

Exclusive: Cameron and Osborne ambush Lib Dems in Cabinet meeting
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A dramatic Cabinet this morning as the Tories ambushed the Lib Dems over the contents of the Queen’s Speech. First, Cameron took them by surprise by demanding that a recall bill be included in the speech. This was quite a slap to the Liberal Democrats seeing as just last month they were publicly blaming Cameron and Osborne for the fact that a recall bill was not going to be included in the Queen’s Speech.

But this wasn’t the only bit of Tory aggression this morning. For Osborne then took up the baton, pushing for the inclusion of an EU referendum bill in the coalition’s legislative agenda. David Laws and Nick Clegg dismissed this idea. But IDS then pointed out that the Liberal Democrats used to boast of being in favour of an In / Out referendum.

These Tory tactics at Cabinet this morning tell us two things. First, the Tories have decided to take a more combative approach to their coalition partners. Since the turn of the year, senior figures in Downing Street have been complaining about how the Liberal Democrats keep screaming ‘Blue Murder’, describing the Tories in increasingly diabolical terms. Today, suggests how the Tories intend to respond to this; making their coalition partners take the rap for blocking popular measures.

Second, the fact that it was Osborne, Cameron’s closest political ally, who led the charge for the inclusion of an EU Referendum Bill in the Queen’s Speech shows that the Tory leadership is trying to pre-empt backbench demands. They know that the Queen’s Speech will happen almost straight after the European Elections, where Ukip are expected to knock the Tories into third place, and that there’ll be calls then for a firming up of the party’s commitment on an EU referendum. By making it clear that the Tory leadership want the bill in the Queen’s Speech they are trying to get ahead of the game on this.