Peter Bills: Shotgun wedding bound to end in jeers from all concerned

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British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Photo / AP
British Prime Minister David Cameron, right, and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. Photo / AP

Given that two out of every five marriages in Britain ends in divorce, which is one of the highest rates in Europe, we probably should not have expected too much from the Coalition that governs Britain.

As they say in adult company, both parties went into it as consenting adults, with their eyes open. But the cracks are starting to show up, just like on the face of a 60-something woman who has used too much makeup.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were thrust together into a hastily arranged, shotgun-type wedding almost exactly a year ago. Once they had dragged former Prime Minister Gordon Brown kicking and screaming out of 10 Downing St, David Cameron, as leader of the party which won most votes in the election, became Prime Minister.

But to ensure a workable majority, a marriage had to be arranged between Cameron and Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader. What goes on behind closed doors in any marriage is a matter of speculation but you have not needed to press your eye or ear to the keyhole to discover the salacious workings of this marriage.

Liberal Democrat Vince Cable, Business Secretary in the Coalition, last week called the Conservatives "ruthless, calculating and thoroughly tribal".

A senior Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Tony Greaves, went further in an outspoken attack on Cameron. He said: "A lot of people in our party never liked Cameron. He is seen as a toffee-nosed slime bag which is what he is. That is being polite to the man."

Yes, my Lord, but come along, no more sitting on the fence. What do you really think of the PM, your party's Coalition partner and leader?

But if that is the view of most Liberal Democrats, you wonder how any progress is being made inside this cobbled together government. Do they throw tea cups at each other across the Cabinet table? Does Cable stand up, pull down his trousers and bare his cheeks at the Conservatives, while chanting "Yaboo, sucks to you"?

Are they pulling apart Cameron and Clegg as the coffee is served? Are one Conservative and one LibDem Minister trading blows in a corner of the room, even as some vital government policy is being discussed?

"I'll get you, you slimebag ..."

"Take that, you scumbag ..."

"Those in favour of the motion, raise their hands."

"Those against, just shut up and get on with it ..."

Given that the electorate is largely composed of consenting adults, too, I think we should be told. Of course, belittling your partner in public is a classic sign of a disintegrating marriage. That, and going to sleep and starting to snore while your partner is trying to make a point at the dinner table.

I once knew a couple where the husband excelled at that trick. He'd be in the land of nod long before the coffee was served. You had to sort of cough politely when the snoring began to build to a crescendo. At the end of the evening, the wife, having cheerfully rubbished him for most of the final hour to anyone prepared to listen, would gather him up, put him in the car and drive him home.

Presumably, they'd then ravish each other all night long in a prolonged bout of passionate love-making. Or not. Predictably, the marriage, her third, ended in divorce. She gave up trying after that.

Maybe it's time Britain gave up trying to pretend it can really operate a coalition government. After all, this is the first one they have tried in London since World War II and there was a rather pressing reason for that one. Hitler was just 35km away from Dover, on the other side of the Channel from the Kent coast. The national interest demanded personal views and aspirations be buried.

Presumably, the fact that modern- day Britain is only £149 billion ($305 billion) in debt is nowhere near sufficient reason for Liberal Democrats to bury old antagonisms and try to get along with their Conservative partners for the good of the country. That, after all, was the basic premise, the raison d'etre of this alliance.

But like all marriages that go up in smoke, the warring partners eventually descend into a state of affairs whereby they can't even stand the sight of each other.

As Liberal Democrats hurled insults at the Conservatives last week, you had the distinct feeling that Justice Rose in the Westminster Divorce Court was about to get another heavy portfolio dumped on his bench.

- NZ Herald

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