David Davis, the grey-haired, tangerine-faced old gentleman who is Her Majesty’s Leader of the Unofficial Opposition, denies calling the Government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg “the Brokeback Coalition”. In making this remark – or perhaps not making it – Davis is at least guilty (or perhaps not guilty) of being unoriginal, for the bon mot is supposed to have originated with Lord Ashcroft, who still hasn’t forgiven Cameron for what he sees as the lousy return for the five million quid he pumped into the Tories’ election campaign.  Lord Ashcroft, so far as I am aware,  does not deny crafting the comment in the first place, though given the noble Lord’s languid record in clearing things up, it may be towards the middle of the decade that we get to the truth of that.

Anyway, the faux outrage over the alleged comment derives from the reference to the film Brokeback Mountain, a charming Hollywood fable of a few years back about a couple of gay cowboys. This therefore raises two possibilities: that Ashcroft/Davis meant to cast aspersions on Cameron/Clegg that they are gay; or that they meant to cast aspersions upon them that they are cowboys.  Most people seem to think that the slur – if slur there was – was about homosexuality, though I thought that these days being gay and in politics was perfectly respectable, if not de rigeur.  It seems more damaging to imply that they are cowboys of the type who arrive, whip up some jerry-built scaffolding around your structural deficit and then disappear from the face of the planet leaving wires hanging from the ceiling and the roof still not fixed.

I don’t suppose that anyone seriously thinks that Cameron and Clegg are secret homosexual lovers in any physical sense and both of them are, after all, married men (though the same became true of the two protagonists in Brokeback Mountain). Yet there is something undeniably gay about their relationship, rather as there was between Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson.  For this they have only themselves to blame ever since they chose to put the coalition on such a romantic footing back in the Downing Street Rose Garden.  Mr Davis may be being wicked drawing attention to this fact, but he is hardly being unfair.  Personally, however, if I were looking to tar somebody with the deviationist brush I’d be inclined not to do it in a pub called the Boot and Flogger.