Coalition partners put a brave face on their battered relationship


After a torrid few days, Nick Clegg began yesterday among friends. He arrived at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London's Knightsbridge at 7.45am and had time, appropriately, for croissants and coffee as he prepared to address the Business for New Europe group.

Like him, the organisation is for the European Union and against David Cameron's use of the veto at last week's Brussels summit.

It was the start of the Deputy Prime Minister's fightback on Europe as he tried to "pick up the pieces" on two fronts – ending both Britain's isolation in the EU and the bitter public split between Britain's two Coalition parties.

Also present were Liberal Democrat ministers Vince Cable, the Business Secretary; Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary; Danny Alexander, the Chief Treasury Secretary; and his predecessor, the backbencher David Laws. Tory ministers were conspicuous by their absence.

Despite that, Mr Clegg told the businessmen: "The whole Government is absolutely determined to re-engage with our European partners, to get back on the front foot and to make sure that our vital national economic self-interest in being at the heart of the single market is properly followed through the weeks and months ahead."

Mr Clegg squeezed in meetings with other leading business figures after returning to his office in Whitehall. Several expressed their dismay at Britain's apparent isolation. Mr Clegg encouraged them to make their fears known – both in public and privately to Tory ministers. Predictably, the Liberal Democrat leader was greeted with derision from Labour MPs when he entered the Commons chamber to take his seat for Prime Minister's Questions. He knew it would happen because of his highly unusual "no show" on Monday, when Mr Cameron made a Commons statement on the Brussels summit. Then Mr Clegg was visibly angry, ripping off his lapel microphone at the end of a TV interview explaining his absence. Yesterday he smiled through the taunts.

Fortunately for the PM and his deputy, Ed Miliband's inevitable attack on their split was deflected by a brilliant put-down by Mr Cameron: "It's not like we're brothers or anything."

Mr Clegg congratulated Mr Cameron on what he saw as a strong performance. The PM had rehearsed his knockout blow at two "prepping" sessions for PMQs yesterday morning.

Later, both he and Mr Clegg met senior ministers to discuss the Olympics. After a week of tension, ministers saw it as a welcome chance to get back to normal business. Europe was not on the agenda. Spin doctors from both Coalition parties agreed: "It's time to move on."

Then Mr Cameron returned to the Commons for an end-of-term address to Tory MPs and peers at the weekly meeting of the 1922 Committee.

"Headmaster's study again," he quipped to a line of journalists standing opposite him, jokingly branding them "the execution squad". If he had caved in at the Brussels summit, the execution squad might have been waiting for him inside. Instead, two hardline Eurosceptics, Bernard Jenkin and John Baron, congratulated him and he was given a hero's welcome.

Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Support Developer

£50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn