There was a rare moment of unity between the Tory awkward squad and the Whips at PMQs today. The awkward squad relished brandishing copies of a Liberal Democrat leaflet promising an In/Out referendum. CCHQ, for its part, has been keen to give this leaflet more attention. Clegg tried to dismiss it, but did he declare that a referendum on the EU is now a matter of ‘when not if’.
A while back, Tory ministers used to feel rather guilty when their backbenchers took pop after pop at Clegg. But today the Tories on the front bench did not look at all displeased today when five Tory backbench questions attacked the deputy Prime Minister. The Tory leadership has concluded that the best way to unite the party is to encourage them to attack their coalition partners. What this means for the prospects of the coalition and any future coalition, remains to be seen.
Today’s main exchanges between Harriet Harman and Nick Clegg were nothing to write home about. Both of them seemed to be playing quite a cautious game.
During PMQs, an Ipsos-Mori poll landed showing the Labour lead at only three points. Now, all the usual caveats apply. But this is the second poll in a week that has Labour below 35%. It is a reminder that the next election remains wide open. Cameron will be hoping that he can use this fact to try to restore some discipline to Tory ranks.