Most observers of the coalition, seeing the Lib Dems plunging in the opinion polls, have tended to portray them as poodles trotting along behind the Conservatives. Certainly the feeling that the Tories are using Clegg and co. as human shields to take the flak for the cuts is pretty widespread.
But for such a small group in the Commons it could be argued that the Lib Dem tail is wagging the Tory dog. The Tory backbenchers detest the notion of AV which went through last night, particularly those who fear Labour preferences switching to the Lib Dems to keep out the Tories. There is little doubt that a majority Tory government wouldn’t have given AV a second glance.
The same can almost certainly be said about proposals for. Gay marriage and the Lib Dems are claiming the credit for Cameron’s embarrassing u-turns on the sell-off of forests and housing benefits.
In addition the Lib Dems have rubbed the Tory backbenchers up the wrong way over ‘human rights’ issues like prisoner votes or control orders, which are a red rag to a bull for the backwoodsmen from the Shires.
Of course, you have to ask whether screwing over the public services, trotting through the Tory lobbies on VAT increases and tuition fees is a fair return for gay marriage or a rebranding of control orders… which if opinion polls are to be believed are not the sort of issues that score highly on the electorate’s agenda.
The first test is not far away now.