Internecine warfare poised to break out on both sides

KIERAN HOWARD: Thanks very much for the hand, foot and mouth disease Louie

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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 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 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, 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, 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 I can’t wait for the new session of Parliament.