Keith Newbery:What direction is the new coalition taking?

IN POST-WAR British politics, it has often been difficult to determine whether successive Prime Ministers and chancellors of the exchequer required permanent secretaries or corner men.

History is littered with examples of the connecting door between numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street being metaphorically kicked in as the paranoia fermented and the rancour spilled over.

This is all the more extraordinary since an effective alliance between those holding the two great offices of state is crucial to the success of any government. Yet more often than not the relationship has degenerated into one of mutual suspicion at best, and shared loathing at worst.

Two of the most recent adversaries – Messrs Blair and Brown – provided the quintessential example of what can happen when it all goes badly wrong.

They started as colleagues, became friends, worked as partners, evolved into rivals and ended up as enemies.

Now, as the strains of government begin to take their toll, speculation is mounting about the direction the relationship between David Cameron and George Osborne may be taking.

They are two peas from the same well-upholstered pod, having the trod the comfortable path from public school, to Oxford and on into politics with the minimum of effort and the maximum of privilege.

But with the economy showing few signs of improvement, an electorate becoming increasingly restless and an election due in a couple of years, it will soon be time for scapegoats.

Recent polls have consistently shown Osborne to be an electoral liability, so Cameron will hardly need to justify moving him sideways when the time comes for a reshuffle.

But he knows there’s only one creature more dangerous in politics than a bitter rival – and that’s an embittered ‘friend.’

There’s a similar sort of fractiousness on the other side of the Despatch Box, where Ed Balls is said to be metamorphosing into his mentor, Gordon Brown, before the horrified gaze of senior colleagues.

They reckon he’s getting too big for his briefs and is thought to be assuming an authority which far exceeds the role he is expected to fulfil.

It would appear internecine warfare is poised to break out on both sides of the chamber – which is why politicophiles like me can’t wait for the new session of parliament to get started.

THE ART of parody has long been at the core of most great and enduring comedy.

It involves exaggerating for effect, which requires logic to be suspended and sensitivities to be dulled a little because stereotyping is inevitable.

But does anyone really believe every Cockney is like Del Boy Trotter, or that Basil Fawlty was typical of all Torquay guesthouse owners?

Sadly, the BBC received more than 200 complaints about its new comedy Citizen Khan, with most claiming it was disrespectful and ‘took the mickey out of Islam.’

Yet it was written by, and starred, Adil Ray – a Muslim.

It would be interesting to learn how many of the complaints came from hand-wringing, right-on, do-gooding, non-Muslim whingers.

Most I suspect.