Editorial: Cameron and Clegg must beware the enemy within

The tensions inside both governing parties are becoming increasingly marked

Share

Tensions between the Coalition partners have been vivid and intense for some time. But what are now becoming increasingly marked are the tensions within the two governing parties. Conservative MPs stir against David Cameron; Boris Johnson is cheered when he speaks and is touted as a more popular leader; former ministers who were victims of the recent reshuffle nurse their wounds and could yet become dangerous enemies.

Meanwhile, a similar sequence is unfolding within the Liberal Democrats. There is persistent speculation that Nick Clegg might not lead the party into the next election; Vince Cable is being wooed by Labour and has been known to be in text contact with Ed Miliband; one or two Liberal Democrats have doubts about the Cabinet reshuffle and wonder privately whether their leader is out of his depth.

Sad to say, all these various manifestations of discontent are starting to drown out policy. Over the past few days, the Business Secretary has unveiled several initiatives aimed at generating economic growth. They have been largely well received across the political spectrum, and deservedly so. Indeed, yesterday's proposed changes to Britain's employment rules were an astute balancing act, making the labour market more flexible, but without the extremes measures advocated by some senior Conservatives.

But the reception to Mr Cable's high-profile initiatives has been too often refracted through the prism of internal Liberal Democrat dynamics. In fact, in recent months the Business Secretary has commanded more attention for his declaration that he no longer rules out standing for the leadership, and even for his vaguely warm relations with the Labour leader.

Similarly, Mr Clegg's policy proposals since the summer break seem aimed as much at strengthening his position within a worried party as at early implementation. Reports that he would be willing to accept further cuts to benefits, if the Conservatives back his proposals for a wealth tax, suggest negotiations are at a very preliminary stage, not least because George Osborne swiftly ruled out a wealth tax when it was first proposed.

But the Prime Minister is showing signs of similar constraint. Much of his Cabinet reshuffle, and a number of his recent declarations, have been shaped by the need to reassure the right wing of his party. In all likelihood, much of the current plotting will lead nowhere. Such is politics. It would be precipitous to predict a coup against Mr Cameron yet. Mr Johnson may perhaps not even be an MP by the time of the next election. And, although ambitious, Mr Cable shows no sign of wanting to remove Mr Clegg and, so far at least, very few voices have called for the Liberal Democrats' leader to stand aside.

Even without a definable climax, however, such rumblings are still significant. They are symptoms of a deep unease as the Coalition's differences over policy are exacerbated by struggles with continuing economic gloom. If Mr Cameron were either strong or popular, there would be no great interest in Mr Johnson. If Mr Clegg had achieved some of his early objectives, Mr Cable's newly discovered ambitions would make few waves.

For both the Prime Minister and his deputy, therefore, the looming party conference season is of considerable importance. Although Mr Johnson and Mr Cable will also have their moments in the sun, conference season is a time when party leaders take centre stage. Both must use them to set out their course more clearly and convincingly. As of now, it is hard to see how the Coalition maintains momentum for another three years. If the verdict remains when the conferences are over, the current febrile mood will become much stormier.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Leonard Nimoy as Mr Spock, whose expression was coveted by Alex Salmond as a young man  

Leonard Nimroy: Why Spock was the blackest person on the Enterprise

Bonnie Greer
 

Leonard Nimroy: Spock made me feel like it was good to be the weird kid

Matthew James
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?