John Crace’s sketch: Alexander the irate ends his love affair with the Tories

For 50 minutes, Danny Alexander held it together. With George Osborne away in Brussels, the chief secretary to the Treasury was having to stand in for the chancellor at Treasury queries and had resisted all provocations to do in the Commons what he had been performing everywhere else: distancing himself from Osborne’s autumn statement.

“Long term financial strategy … decisive action … strengthening perform incentives … rebalance and strengthen,” he had burbled as an eidetic preface to each question.

Then came a minute that the sacred might phone divine intervention, a public act of repentance for his four-and-a-half year adore affair with the Tories. The profane might contact it his Homeland “I was doing work undercover all along” minute.

MPs recognized it as the panic of studying the most recent opinion polls and realising the Lib Dems’ position is even worse than any person had feared. Whichever it was, Alexander misplaced it. Massive time.

“Let me say this to the Labour party and to the Conservative get together,” he said, his voice deviating from a monotone for the first time in his lifestyle and his head spinning ever faster as he tried to tackle each sides of the chamber at as soon as.

“Both of them, in different ways, are advocating relentless austerity for the entire of the following parliament, and it is only the Liberal Democrats turning all around the public finances soon after 2017-18 who offer any hope of a alter in the long term.”

There followed a brief silence as Alexander’s head slowly came to rest. He appeared as startled as absolutely everyone else and attempted to carry on as if nothing untoward had occurred. “The best safety for the United kingdom is to stick to the economic strategy,” he explained, although the way the financial secretary, Andrea Leadsom, and the fiscal secretary, David Gauke, shuffled along to create as considerably green area on the front bench in between him and them must have advised him his outburst was each and every bit as damaging as he had feared.

In one sentence, he had ripped up the convention of collective duty within the Property of Commons. As no 1 is going anyplace ahead of subsequent May possibly thanks to the Fixed-phrase Parliament Act, the coalition government is now properly a number of Lib Dems quick of a total cabinet.

There can no longer be any pretence it is otherwise. It is a mess, for the two events. “An further man or woman has grow to be employed each 80 seconds considering that the government was formed in 2010,” Alexander had claimed earlier in the session. Just as well, as he could soon be joining the jobseekers.

If Alexander had just had a individual nightmare, then spare a believed for Paige McConville, the young woman whom he had earlier declared to be the two millionth apprentice recruited under the coalition. Her reward? A personalized pay a visit to from the enterprise secretary, Vince Cable. How unlucky can a individual get? If she had utilized an hour later on or earlier, she would have dodged the photo opportunity. She must be kicking herself.

The day was turning out to have a great deal of surprises. At the session’s start there had been slack-jawed wonder as a huge white hat that appeared to have escaped from Ascot glided through the chamber. It was only when it reached the dispatch box that onlookers realised the government whip and vice-chamberlain of the home, Anne Milton, was beneath it.

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