Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Nice young couple, but how can this marriage last in bad times?

It's frightening. There they were standing before the Queen at the State Opening of Parliament, and they looked so worryingly young.

I'm referring to our new Prime Minister, the boy David, and his mate, young Nick, the new kids on the Westminster block.

A friend asked me the other day: "What do they know about running anything?" He had a point. I wouldn't be surprised if the Queen was harbouring the same thought as she surveyed the 12th and youngest Prime Minister of her 58-year reign.

After the likes of Churchill, Eden, MacMillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath, Callaghan, Thatcher, and Major, she must see Cameron and Clegg as mere page-boys.

However, I suspect her experience with Tony Blair, also only 43 years old when he took office in 1997, will have helped her through the shock of finding today's new Downing Street duo claiming they are now in charge of her UK.

Once you have surveyed the furrowless brows and wrinkle-free faces of the young generation of Cabinet ministers and MPs, you can be assured immediately that we are safe in the hands of the civil servants.

We may berate them and wish there were far fewer of them and that they didn't earn such inflated salaries and have whopping bomb-proof pensions, but we should be comforted by the presence of civil servants in the corridors of power.

That's because, it's hard to imagine the boy David and young Nick with their fingers on the nuclear button. Or as joint commanders-in-chief of our armed services. Or sending us into battle with the enemy? Or confronting Al-Qaeda? Do I hear you say: sure they wouldn't know one end of a rifle from the other?

We now have a breed of politician whose hands are so soft they should be shown on a Fairy Liquid commercial, whose backs have never been strained by physical labour, and whose brains have been polished in the cloistered chambers of Cambridge or Oxford.

In short, we have in charge of all our destinies, a group of young men - and a few women, too - who are not of this world, our world. The new political leaders like to impress the general public by demonstrating some evidence of contact with ordinary mortals. It helps greatly if they have mixed with the rest of us in early life at a grammar or comprehensive school. Neither Cameron nor Clegg has.

The really big question is: how long will this marriage of convenience last? We can only see smiles now, but fundamental policy differences are being papered over daily by the respective families. We should be preparing for the first of many domestic rows in the Downing Street kitchen by the autumn.

Finding cuts of £6bn was easy-peasy to the boy David and young Nick. Significantly reducing the £156bn deficit will reveal the real strains and stresses in their new partnership.

Watch the in-laws on both sides at the Tory and Liberal Democrats party conferences after the summer break. See how unhappy they are when the Cameron-Clegg axe crashes upon all our pockets. October, when the axeman cometh, will tell the true tale of this political marriage.

The Liberal Democrats are like a bunch of hungry vegetarians who have suddenly fallen upon a McDonalds as the only restaurant open. The 10,683,787 people who voted Conservative were looking for a strong Tory government.

No matter how many voters were bowled over by young Nick's TV appearances, it should not be forgotten how disappointed he was with his party's results on election night.

The UK could not have a coalition at a worse time. If the experience of Stormont is anything to go by, the Conservative-Lib Dem pact is a recipe for longer-term indecision.

We are left with a Government with the potential for weakness and vacillation. It is led by two inexperienced political youngsters, who have no international standing, nor do we know how they will react to the threats and challenges which this big bad world will inevitably throw at them. As I say, it's frightening. The Lib-Dem vegetarians have taken their seats and ordered Big Macs. A packet of Rennies will be needed urgently.

The boy Dave and young Nick think they are in charge, but they're not.

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