The coalition government has been hit by fresh evidence of internal tensions from the undercover reporting by a national newspaper.
The Daily Telegraph has published new remarks by Liberal Democrats serving in the Conservative-led government, in which they openly question Prime Minister David Cameron’s sincerity and say he cannot be trusted.
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, right, said he did not know where Cameron stood on the “sincerity monitor”.
They were speaking to undercover reporters posing as constituents who have already caught out business secretary and senior Liberal Democrat Vince Cable and caused a major political row.
Mr Cable told the two female reporters that he had “declared war” on Murdoch over a bid by the media mogul’s News Corporation to take control of pay TV company BSkyB. The remarks emerged as regulators mull the takeover deal, and forced Mr Cameron to remove Mr Cable from any role in reviewing the bid. The prime minister also stripped him of powers over media, telecom and broadcasting firms.
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.
Conservatives, meanwhile, are furious that he has been given preferential treatment because of his key role in holding together the coalition. They point out that when Tory peer Lord Young spoke out of line a few weeks ago, Mr Cameron immediately sacked him.
“When we get into the new year, 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,” Tory MP Christopher Chope told the BBC.
But Oliver Letwin, the Conservative in charge of formulating government policy, insisted that “deep bonds of trust” had developed in the seven months since the two parties were bound together in an unlikely coalition.
He told The Guardian that the Conservatives had discovered “a huge amount of policy overlap with the Liberal Democrats”, whose politics make them more natural allies for the opposition Labour party.