Nick Clegg made clear before Christmas that he wants gory, open and honest government; today the Prime Minister was equally clear that he doesn’t. Asked this morning on Radio 5Live about whether he was happy with the Lib Dem desire for greater differentiation between the parties, the Prime Minister replied:
‘I think that both parties will succeed if the Coalition succeeds, Nick Clegg and I work well together, and actually there are huge challenges facing this country. We have got to pay down the deficit, re-balance the economy and we have got to improve standards in our schools.
‘We don’t spend our time in private bickering with each other, we work on the major problems facing our country and I would contrast that with the Labour Party who I don’t think is focused on the main problem facing Britain which is paying down our deficit and getting growth in the public sector.’
What’s strange about this is that while it’s fair enough if Cameron wants to retain a veneer of unity over the policymaking process, rather than the sausage machine approach favoured by Clegg, he seems less bothered about the rather gory way in which his own party conducts itself. Even if it is true that he doesn’t bicker that much with the Deputy Prime Minister, Cameron and the whips allow loud dissent from the backbenches without even trying to calm MPs down with flattery and attention. And then every so often he gets a little grumpy with popular backbenchers like Jesse Norman in full view of other MPs. My suspicion is that many MPs feel they’ll never be part of the hallowed Inner Circle, and so feel less troubled about bickering in public. That sort of gory government isn’t very helpful, either.