Earlier this week David Cameron threatened the Lib Dems with divorce. Today, two of their senior figures offered to kiss and make up. Sir Alan Beith and Sir Bob Russell, bearing their knighthoods like dented old battle-shields, made their overtures at PMQs. Each of these leathery old libertarians seems to have discovered his inner Tory.
Sir Alan went first. He invited Cameron to slap down rogue Anglicans who dare to criticise welfare reform.
‘There’s nothing moral about pouring more borrowed money into systems that trap people in poverty,’ he said.
Cameron accepted Sir Alan’s invitation for a waltz. Greeting him as ‘a ‘distinguished churchman himself’, the prime minister praised his stance and quoted George Carey, a former Archbishop of Canterbury, who also supports the benefit squeeze.
‘Churches should be wary of the dangers of defending gargantuan welfare budgets.’
Then it was Sir Bob’s turn. The British army, he fears, has been reduced too rapidly. He urged Cameron to ‘recognise the folly’ of inflicting further cuts. His voice quivered alarmingly as he begged the PM, ‘for God’s sake’, to desist from sacking any more serving soldiers.
Strange days indeed. The Lib Dems are suddenly the party of military expansionism and hard-line Christianity. Are they about to stage a coup?
Cameron airily informed Sir Bob that the chief reductions had already been implemented. In any case, he went on, the whole sorry kerfuffle was entirely down to the ‘£38 billion black hole’ left by the previous government – a cosmic vacancy whose existence Labour strenuously denies.
Miliband barely troubled Cameron today. That should trouble the Labour party.
His colourless performance was all the more amazing given that he arrived at the House carrying deadly materials. His back-room elves have stumbled on a killer-fact about flood defence spending: