A week in politics: Lib Dem squirming wasn’t a pretty sight

It’s been a tough week for the Liberal Democrats, and it’s not going to be the last.

Their biggest headache is on tuition fees, which the coalition government this week announced would rise to a maximum of £9,000.

That’s funny, isn’t it? We thought Lib Dem MPs signed a pledge saying they would fight tooth and nail against any increase from the current £3,290 cap. Oh, wait – we were right. Which is why they’ve spent the week desperately squirming with discomfort as they try and explain why they’re having not just to U-turn, but to break a promise, to boot.

Some of them aren’t interested in playing ball at all. Former leaders Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell are among those who intend to rebel on the issue, which is bad news for the coalition. It also came under pressure this week on the issue of control orders, which its MPs are desperately fighting against keeping. Home secretary Theresa May will face a tough call on this issue: placating civil liberties campaigners on the one hand, safeguarding the country on the other.

These agonies reflect the current difficulties Britain’s third party find themselves in. As an expert told politics.co.uk this week, they’re simply not receiving enough support in government, which is resulting in many potential divisive issues slipping through the net. Meanwhile, those poll ratings just keep slipping lower and lower – with a YouGov survey this week putting the Lib Dems on just nine per cent. Even that very nice lady Harriet Harman doesn’t like the Lib Dems; she called Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent”.

It’s been a busy week. Britain and France signed two historic treaties agreeing to pool their military resources. Air freight security concerns following that suspicious Yemeni package and the conviction of the woman who attempted to stab Stephen Timms cast a dark shadow. In the Commons, late on Monday evening, MPs ignored these issues by rushing from the bars to see the price of defeat: Gordon Brown, making his first speech as a backbencher since losing the general election.