The Week in Review: The end of a fragile Tory truce

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The Queen arrives for the state opening of parliament but the legislative agenda is already unraveling for Cameron
The Queen arrives for the state opening of parliament but the legislative agenda is already unraveling for Cameron

Deaths in the family are always painful, but they do tend to bring everyone together. That was the lesson many Tories took from the passing away of Margaret Thatcher. They were reminded of days of glory past and that Conservatism could, in theory, be appealing to the working and middle classes alike.

The truce proved shallow. Tory MPs prefer panic to contemplation and fratricide to brotherly love. Former chancellor Nigel Lawson emerged stage right to throw, in Malcolm Rifkind's words, "a hand grenade into a small building" by saying he would vote to leave the EU no matter what deal David Cameron stitched together in Brussels. He broke the seal.

By the time the week ended, he was joined by Boris Johnson, Dennis Healey and Norman Lamont. Quite the range of grandees. And Boris.

Still reeling from the surge of Ukip support at the local elections, the Tories set up a flirty little Queen's Speech with plenty of leg on show for the 'string-em-up, chuck-em-out' brigade. There was lots of red meat on immigration, particularly, but seemingly not enough on Europe. Tory backbenchers put forward a baffling amendment "respectfully" criticising the Queen's Speech for not featuring a bill cementing plans for a referendum in the next parliament.


The amendment is symbolic but potentially catastrophic for Cameron. It's parliamentary custom that a prime minister has to resign if he loses a vote against the Queen's Speech (this is what happened in 1924 to bring in the first Labour government, you'll remember).

Tory MPs are remarkable. Cameron already promised them a referendum. They've got what they said they wanted. They're humiliating him in the eyes of the public out of pure symbolism.

Miliband is not making the most of the PM's troubles, but he is starting to find the language for it, step by step. Perhaps he's still recovering from the description of him as a dashing and handsome hero from a London cyclist earlier this week.

The Tory anxiety attack over Ukip wasn't restrained to Europe. In a fit of panic over rumours she was about to submit to the beer-soaked embrace of Nigel Farage and his endlessly malleable face, Sir George Young finally capitulated and let Nadine Dorries back into the party. David Davis is throwing a party for her in his parliamentary office next Monday. He's going from a thorn in the prime minister's side to something approaching a bayonet. Dorries and Davis share one quality above all others: They seem to enjoy tormenting Dave. They rebel more gleefully than anyone else.

The Queen's Speech was coming apart at the seams before the end of the first day. There were reports that plain packs on fags had been dropped in order to keep big business happy. Theresa May pretended she could get the snoopers' charter back online despite Nick Clegg's intransigence. The Lib Dems continued with their newly-minted cojones strategy when Clegg slapped down plans for childcare reform. Davis branded immigration plans 'uncivilised' – quite a phrase, when you consider how robust he's been on the subject in the past.

It's like the good old days of the omnishambles Budget all over again. Place your bets for a long, hot summer.

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