The Foreign Secretary taking to the airwaves to call for change on one of the Government’s central policies. Other Cabinet Ministers wading in with support, and the Chancellor pushing back. All in public, all the while the Prime Minister sits silent, powerless to intervene, call-rank and shut them all up.
This week has been one of the less dramatic in the short life of this Government, but going forward its likely we’ll find it the most typical. No huge dramas and blazing rows. No lost votes in the House – although there will be a good few of these – but a rather enfeebled Government unable to maintain collective responsibility and unable to set a clear and strong sense of direction for Britain. And if it is like this one month in, what will it be like after two years? Or even four?
The last time we saw Government this rudderless was under John Major in the mid-90’s. But even under Major it took a couple of years from the 1992 election to get to this state of chaos. It is hard to think of a precedent for a Government to be in this place right at the start of the term.
As many Tories will now be mindful, the fiasco of the 1992-97 Parliament led to the Blair landslide and 13 years of Labour rule. As any physicist will tell you, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. And each week with this sort of Government makes a Labour win at the next election more possible. Whilst every politician’s instinct is to cling to power by the fingernails, many will ask themselves one simple question – at what price?