The clip from this week’s PMQs showing the Prime Minister – literally – laughing off a question from a backbencher seemed innocuous enough. It holds a deeper, darker meaning though which the Prime Minister behind his joshing will not have failed to notice.
His questioner, Nadine Dorries MP, is a maverick who has rarely failed to suck from the oxygen tank of self-publicity. She however asked the question that would have been burning in the minds of many Tory MPs as they listened to Nick Clegg last week, effectively, circumscribing the extent of Michael Gove’s school reforms. To many Tories, Clegg’s intervention was an intolerable intrusion by the Coalition’s junior partner onto a key area of Conservative policy.
Rather than parking his tanks on Gove’s lawn, Clegg has installed a whole concrete battery. Dorries’ question comes in the first full week back from the recess as the PM enjoys the afterglow of his Libyan success. As the grind of politics wears on – especially for frustrated and ambitious Tory backbenchers – do not expect the Dorries’ line of enquiry to continue to be a laughing matter. It holds the seeds of real problems for Cameron and the Coalition: a growing, disconnection between how ministers see the government and how those, whose votes they rely on, do. To quote the song: “I see trouble ahead”.