Peter Hoskin

Will Cameron help Clegg for the coalition’s sake?

Will Cameron help Clegg for the coalition's sake?
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Politics has never really settled down since last year's general election — but it still seems especially convulsive at the moment. Only a few weeks ago, Clegg was caught on camera joking about his and Cameron's similarities. Only a few days ago, he was standing up, vigorously, for the coalition. Yet, now, both his rhetoric — and that of his party — has been dipped in acid and wielded against the Tories. And while there is some speculation about how much of the hostility is staged, and about which ministers actually mean it, the basic fact remains: the coalition is no longer a happy band, but increasingly a collection of rivals.

And this morning we reach another milestone in the coalition's stuttering marriage: heightened speculation about a general election this year. Both Jackie Ashley and Tim Montgomerie write about the possibility in their respective outlets, the Guardian and Conservative Home. And their central points are similar. A combination of Lib Dem fractiousness and Tory solidity might persuade the PM to go to the country, they suggest. And it is an election from which the Tories could emerge victorious, and convincingly so.

Will it happen? No one can say — but it is no longer a laughable notion, even if Cameron would have to find a very convincing reason for terminating a union that was meant to bring stability to both the economy and the country at large. Much, I suspect, will come down to the strength of Clegg's own position. His job, since last May, has effectively been to staple the coalition together. Weaken Clegg, and the binding comes loose too — particularly given the politics of those who might jostle for his crown, such as Chris Huhne and Tim Farron.

This leaves Cameron in a very peculiar, and unpredictable, position. If he wishes to bolster the coalition, then he needs to bolster Clegg. But what form does that take? Does it mean concessions to quieten the Lib Dem left? Or does it mean reinforcing the Lib Dem right, with promotions for folk like David Laws? Or would nothing make a difference, in the face of other politicians' vanities and ambitions? Questions, questions, questions — and I'm keen to hear CoffeeHousers' answers. The coalition is wavering like never before. If it continues for much longer, then I'm sure that the catharsis of an election will become more attractive to figures on both sides.