The Siege Of Westminster


As student rioters ran through London's streets, attacking even a car containing the Prince of Wales and Camilla, the Coalition government got their rises in student tuition fees through Parliament. But the cost to the Liberal-Tory alliance has been considerable. The Liberals now have a staggeringly low 8 percent support in the country at large. Martin Kettle:

More than half of the Lib Dem backbenchers voted against the government. They were part of the largest revolt in the party's history. Collective governmental self-interest ensured that enough Tories went through the lobbies to win the vote. But the Lib Dems have exposed their divisions and wounds in the most public way. Things can never be quite the same. Tory attitudes to the Lib Dems have lost much of the warmth that was so striking in the summer. Tonight's Tory revolt got fewer headlines, but it was a sign and harbinger of more strained times. There is less talk about pacts or mergers now. The best of the Tory bloggers, Tim Montgomerie, claims fewer than one in five Tories want the coalition to go "on and on".

Meanwhile the Lib Dems have only their survival to cheer.

That's hardly unimportant. In other respects, though, they have had a bloody week. Lib Dem MPs have been like headless chickens, managing to split at least four ways tonight. The party sank to a new low of 8% in a poll today. The brand is particularly toxic in college towns. That's unfair in many ways, not least in the light of the Institute for Fiscal Studies finding this week that the Cable package is more progressive than both the current system and the one proposed a few weeks ago by Lord Browne. But it's a fact.