This party should be consigned to the knackers yard


The once much-vaunted coalition, born in the rose garden of 10, Downing Street five years ago, amid a chorus of political billing and cooing, is now collapsing in chaos at our feet, beset by back-stabbing and ill-feeling.

Good riddance? Some might say that. But at the time there seemed no other option. David Cameron had led the Tories to victory but with insufficient seats to command an overall majority in the House of Commons. Cameron was not prepared to try to go it alone with a minority government so a coalition was inevitable.

There were some senior Tories, including Lord Tebbit, who thought Cameron should have risked a minority government but the Prime Minister ignored them, probably wisely.

So Cameron had nowhere else to turn but to the Liberal Democrats who had a poor general election result, losing five seats when it was confidently predicted they would increase their tally.

After a few days of bickering, the coalition came into being at that love-in in that rose garden.

It did not turn to dust immediately, but it did soon become apparent to Cameron that he had on his hands a grumpy and sometimes divisive Business Secretary in Vince Cable, a sometimes downright hostile deputy Prime Minister in Nick Clegg, as well as other tricky characters, including Education Minister David Laws, who have been highly and publicly critical of Tory policies in a government which they are supposed to support.

I can almost hear Cameron muttering to himself, “never again” and I wouldn’t blame him for that. That could explain, partially at least, why, reportedly, Conservative Central Office is planning for two general elections this year, the first time this would have happened since 1974.

Ed Miliband might now be equally dubious about forming a coalition if Labour turns out to be the biggest party in any hung Parliament. After May 7, if the soothsayers are correct, the Liberal Democrats could be out of the running to join in any coalition themselves. Those who predict these things, say that the Lib Dems are heading for near parliamentary oblivion after this election.

But we are now being confronted with a four-month general election campaign. Posters are being announced, press conferences, with a general election motif are being held. By the time we get to May 7 we shall all be bored rigid with it.

The answer to all this is to repeal the law enacted for fixed-term parliaments, and hold the election almost straightaway. This Parliament is ready for the knackers yard, and should be consigned there without delay.

• The political vultures are already circling menacingly overhead. This election could see the downfall of one or the other of Britain’s two main party leaders.

If Ed Miliband is forced to bite the dust, it would seem unthinkable that his brother David, who abandoned Westminster to take on a highly-paid charity job in New York, should be allowed to sail back into the fray at the top of the pile. Even so, he still has many supporters at Westminster, so that should not be ruled out entirely.

The most likely candidate would appear to be Chuka Umunna, the highly articulate and capable shadow Business Secretary. There is also a groundswell of support for Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary. It seems unlikely that her husband Ed Balls would enter the fray if his wife had already thrown her hat into the ring.

Meanwhile, on the Tory side, the spotlight is on the Home Secretary, Theresa May. She is not giving any hints about her intentions - wise woman - but she has been a spectacular success as Home Secretary and is, I think, gaining support by the day.

• It would seem reckless for a public figure to announce to the world his New Year’s resolution, given the likelihood that most of these resolutions are gone and forgotten by the middle of January.

But that is precisely what Nigel Farage, the Ukip leader has done. He has sworn off beer, at least for the time being. What on earth are the press photographers going to do?

Indeed, what is Mr Farage going to do? It would be too naff for words if he now brandishes a glass of orange juice for the benefit of the snappers.

Just imagine if he falls off the wagon during this period of self-abstinence: what a gift for his opponents.

But the beer has been Mr Farage’s endearing trademark and I hope it won’t be long before we see him again, swigging away. It shouldn’t be too long though, because I don’t really see Mr Farage as an orange juice type of man...