Belated election thoughts, part 3: the Great Flirtation

When I watched the now-famous rose garden press conference on 12 May, I, like everyone else, was struck by the easy-going chemistry between our new Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. We seemed to be watching the beginnings of a potentially blossoming friendship. Despite the widespread teeth-gnashing over the workability and legitimacy of the coalition, the tone of the affair seemed a breath of fresh air.

I wasn’t alone in this. The next day, the media had a field day. In a charmingly gushing piece, the Times‘ Matthew Parris described the conference as “something approaching a philosophical spasm.”

After any election there’s usually a sweet, unrehearsed moment of optimism the media seizes on – think of poor Cherie picking up the milk on 2nd May, 1997. But this was something else: the media was captivated by the idea of Cameron & Clegg as an item.

The Independent dubbed the pair “Britain’s new power couple” and “the Bromance of the Century.” The Mail talked about the “No. 10 love-in”. The Express simply declared, “It’s Love.”

The Times‘ Ann Treneman milked a whole column out of the rose garden conference as a wedding. “The only thing missing was a small orchestra and a tremulous song by Andrew Lloyd Webber,” she snarked.

Others preferred to up the homosexual implications by calling it not a marriage but a civil partnership. “The marriage – or was it a civil partnership – between Tories and Lib Dems has taken place. Now they must make it work,” said The Sun’s Trevor Kavanagh.

“It was not so much a love-in as the exchanging of vows at a political civil partnership ceremony,” said Nick Robinson. Fraser Nelson, even while pointing out the coalition’s many faultlines, also called it a “civil partnership.”

Even the FT, for heaven’s sake, got in on the act.

Downing Street’s rose garden was tastefully arranged as if in readiness for a wedding; though in this case it was more of a civil partnership. The grass was verdant; the sun shone; the blossom was in full bloom.

The two young men were nicely turned out and full of sweet things to say about each other. Oh yes, this is going to be a very civil partnership.

This was just the kind of thing Lord Tebbit has been warning about. We’d seen them earlier on the steps of Number 10 and – well, frankly, they couldn’t keep their hands off each other.

“The very kind of thing Lord Tebbit has been warning about” is a double entendre worthy of Carry On Conservatives.

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