BRITISH Prime Minister David Cameron has been warned to stop giving preferential treatment to his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
The warning comes as the decision to keep Business Secretary Vince Cable in the cabinet unleashed Conservative fury.
The government was hit by fresh evidence of tensions between the Tories and Lib Dems yesterday from the newspaper sting that caused a row over Mr Cable’s remarks about Rupert Murdoch. The Daily Telegraph published new remarks by Lib Dems, who openly questioned the the Prime Minister’s sincerity.
The Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow, was quoted as saying “I don’t want you to trust David Cameron”, while Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell said he did not know where Mr Cameron stood on the “sincerity monitor”.
Mr Cable told two female reporters posing as constituents he had “declared war” on Mr Murdoch – chairman of News Corporation, ultimate owner of The Australian – over a bid to control pay-TV company BSkyB.
In the same sting, Mr Cable was recorded threatening to “bring the government down” if the centre-left Lib Dems were forced to compromise too much with the centre-right Tories.
Senior Tory backbenchers said yesterday the Business Secretary should have been sacked for his unguarded comments. They condemned the decision to keep him in the cabinet as the latest sign that the Prime Minister would “go the extra mile” to keep the rival party in the government.
Christopher Chope, secretary of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, urged Mr Cameron to change his approach to the coalition. “The Prime Minister will have to assess whether propping up the Liberal Democrats is in the long-term best interests of the Conservative Party and the country,” he said.
Allies of Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, said he had ended the parliamentary term frustrated and “in need of recharging”, but cheered that the early signs were the coalition’s economic policies looked to be working.
Mr Cable chose to work from his home in Twickenham, southwest London, yesterday rather than Westminster.
The Tory Right now fears there will be ever bigger concessions to the Lib Dems in the new year.
They predicted that the government would move to the left if the Lib Dems lost the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election next month, if they failed to hold on to control of councils in May and did not secure public backing for a change of the voting system.
And they tipped further internal opposition to welfare cuts. “There is little prospect of things getting better for them, and we are worried what this might lead Mr Cameron to do,” one senior Tory said yesterday.
Labour claimed this week had marked a decisive moment for the coalition. Leader Ed Miliband said the revelation that Lib Dem ministers were raising concerns about coalition policies showed this was not a government interested in the centre-ground of politics.
“These are decisions of a Conservative-led government propped up by Liberal Democrat passengers.
“Passengers not in the front seat, not even in the back seat of the car, passengers who have got themselves locked in the boot,” he said.
A string of members of the Conservative 1922 Committee lined up to condemn Mr Cameron’s handling of the Cable affair. Mr Chope accused Lib Dem ministers of undermining the government and said they should quit if they could not support its policies.
One Tory MP suggested there might be an upside, however, saying the “beauty” of the situation over Mr Cable was that “we can approve Murdoch’s takeover (of BSkyB) and blame the Lib Dems”.