Tory backbencher Peter Bone amused colleagues when he demanded a “divorce” from the Liberal Democrats in the Commons on Wednesday.
Speaking at Questions to the Prime Minister (where William Hague was filling in for an absent David Cameron), he demanded “divorce from the yellow peril”.
Mr Bone insisted the government could get on just fine without its coalition partners as a minority administration.
It’s not going to happen, because David Cameron understands something that Conservative backbenchers have the luxury of ignoring, if they choose – that the Conservatives didn’t actually win the last election.
They beat Labour, but winning in our system means gaining a majority in the Commons, and Tories haven’t done that since 1992.
Without their yellow partners, Conservatives would not be able to get controversial legislation through the Commons.
Mr Bone seems to believe that a minority Tory administration would be more radical than the current government, but an administration which can’t win Commons votes can’t do much.
Coalition does mean compromises have to be made. The controversial Communications and Data Bill could be a good example.
A draft Bill published by Theresa May, the Home Secretary, would oblige internet service providers to keep records of our online activities – which websites we visit, use of webmail and communication services such as Skype, and even which games we play.
Ministers point out that they won’t actually see the content of our e-mails or record exactly which web pages we visit (they would record the site but not the pages within the site), and the aim is to fight crime and terrorism.
But the proposal is like a red rag to a bull to Lib Dems, and has been described by Birmingham Yardley Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming as “wrong and stupid”.
While reports of some splits in the coalition have been exaggerated, this is a real one.
If Ms May does need to compromise, it will be a result not of Lib Dem arrogance but of the way the country voted in May 2010.