Oxford’s notorious public-school drinking-and-mayhem Bullingdon Club, which counts David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson among its alumni, has a characteristically deranged initiation ritual.
Members will turn up at the new boy’s room in the middle of the night, force their way in, smash everything he owns to pieces – pictures, furniture, records, manifesto pledges, opinion poll ratings, backbench morale – and then storm out again, after roaring at him that he’s in.
This is what Osborne is currently doing to Nick Clegg.
It’s taking a while longer than the usual initiation, though. Clegg, like most new recruits to the Club, doesn’t particularly welcome the wreckage that’s forming around him as such, but on the other hand he’s thrilled to bits by what it means: the much bigger prize of a place in the
Now and again, though, one of the braying mob crushes something of sentimental value, and a pang of sadness and frustration runs through him. Like the Lib Dem commitment to helping the poor, for instance.
Back in the Budget in June, for instance, Osborne produced a graph that showed poor people came out best. A torrent of independent experts, led by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, promptly tore this claim to bits for its manifest shoddy falseness on multiple counts.
George didn’t care; that wasn’t the point. It was Nick who charged into the media, struggling to defend the indefensible, and he (and his party’s reputation) got a thorough kicking.
Now we have the spending review, and George has stuck another distributional chart in there, with most of the same inadequacies as the earlier one, and the IFS et al. have reacted in the same way, and once again it’s Nick who’s taking the hits.
Enough damage to the new boy. Dave, you need to call George off. Let Nick in, let him buy his fancy jacket and tails, and the three of you can get on with the serious business of smashing other things up.