The Brokeback Brothers (who increasingly resemble twins who can be told apart only by dental records and the fact that one wears a blue and the other a yellow tie) have written a joint (natch) letter to their Cabinet colleagues reminding them about the need for cuts.  Closer examination of this missive, which they have thoughtfully copied to everybody else in the country, reveals that the cuts in question relate to public expenditure, not to support for the Liberal Democrats in the opinion polls. It is in the latter category of slashing, of course,  where the coalition has so far been at its most devastatingly effective.  The weekend polls show that overall support for the Hare Krishnas is at 12%, while Mr Clegg’s own numbers, which were once pushing at Winston Churchill’s record for wartime popularity, now look more like the Luftwaffe’s after the London blitz.

Fiscal polling hawks regard this as a long-overdue and necessary correction. Under the previous lax regime, the country gorged for far too long at the chocolate fountain of sychophantic infatuation with the Liberal Democrats. Now, true to the spirit of the age, we must learn to live in harsher times.

Weaning ourselves off the Liberals seems like not such a big deal when you get round to it.. Yet it asks a lot of the Libs themselves who, more than any  of our other political tribes, like to reassure themselves that they are not only the nice ones but loved and revered for their niceness. Now that the prevailing public mood appears to be that if we are going to vote for a bastard we’ll go straight to the Tories and cut out the arbitrageurs, the Krishnas are requiring ever larger doses of reassurance that this catastrophic loss of self-esteem is worth it in the end.

This is why, when you decode the twins’ “mission” letter, one sees further attempts at boosting the fragile self-confidence of the coalition’s junior partner.  So, for example, amidst a boilerplate passage in the letter about the “radical redistribution of power from government to communities and people” prominence is given to giving “locally-elected councillors a say over local NHS services”. This is an old Lib Dem fetish that was quietly diluted to homeopathic proportions in the coalition agreement.  Here now it reappears in a far stronger dose, presumably to give Master Clegg something else to wave at his retreating members to persuade them that things are really going their way.

In truth, the introduction of bumbling and self-aggrandising local politicians into the NHS’ labyrinthine ways is unlikely to do much additional damage to a service already hog-tied by bureaucracy and incompetence. Yet a potentially far bigger prize awaits the Krishnas if they can somehow manipulate Trident into the strategic defence review.

Up until now this has seemed impossible.  Ever since last Thursday though,  when Boy George announced that if the MoD wanted to hang on to its nukes they’d have to pay for them themselves, the inviolability of our independent nuclear deterrent has seemed less presumed. Liam Fox, the member of the Cabinet closest to being on suicide watch, seemed pleased with this news.  “In politics nothing surprises me” he replied moodily to a questioner in Portsmouth who asked him whether he had expected Osborne’s uranium-tipped bombshell.

Add to this the persistent gossip that Nick Harvey, Fox’s Krishna number two, is Dave’s man in the MoD and you get the distinct impression that the prime minister might be in for a nasty surprise himself. 

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