Such is the negative prism through which Nick Clegg is now seen that people are highly suspicious about his sudden pre-local elections, pre-AV referendum attacks upon David Cameron.
It is all a bit too neat after all the chummy-chummy cosiness that is one of the reasons he has gone from hero to zero in the first place.
There are even suspicions that the whole thing – ‘you call me a rotter and I’ll say poo to you’ – was concocted at Chequers post-dinner after SamCam and Miriam withdrew to talk Royal weddings and the chaps settled down to a nice glass of port.
‘Trouble is David, my party thinks we are not getting enough out of this coalition malarkey … what they’re hearing on the doorstep is that all we’ve done is cut public services, close libraries, sack people, put up tuition fees, try to destroy the NHS and sort of go to war in Libya … kind of all the sort of things they voted LibDem to stop happening … and of course our people say well, thanks to Nick Clegg we’re having a referendum on a new voting system … to which most people seem to say “so bloody what?”‘
Cameron nods sympathetically, opens his mouth to speak, but Clegg is in full flow. ‘And the thing is David, of course I am trying to get all passionate about AV but I did once say it was a miserable little compromise – which is how I’m beginning to feel about the whole coalition thing to be honest -…’
‘Oh Nick, you mustn’t say that…’
‘Well sorry to be so down about it David but let’s be honest with each other, I mean we’ve always tried to be straight with each other, and the fact is you have let Osborne off the leash and he is directing this No campaign and you’ve got all your donors out there and all your campaigners basically using it to do me in, and it’s just not jolly well fair, is it?’
‘I think we’ll all feel better after the Easter break, I really do. But look Nick, if you want to go out there and have a bit of a pop at me, if you think it helps with your base and with your activists, honestly, I think you should. I mean even if it makes you feel better it will be worth it.’
‘Do you mean it, David? Can I really?’
‘Yes, I mean if you want to call me a jolly old rotter and George a bit of a baddy, that really is fine. Of course I will have to have a pop back. I have a party to worry about too Nick, but I’m only going to say pooh fiddlesticks, nothing too heavy.’
‘And you don’t think it kind of means we will get into the habit as the Parliament drags on and then that, closer to an election, you might actually find a reason, you know, to dump me and go our separate ways.’
‘Well, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, Nick. We’ve come too far to fall out over something as silly as a referendum on a miserable little compromise, surely? Now, let’s go and see what the girls are up to.’
‘Thanks for being so understanding David.’
‘Don’t you worry about a thing. Look, you’re a star Nick, a big fish in a big pond. A year ago, you were a nobody. Now you have boxes, bodyguards, your own Question Time in Parliament. You go to summits and stay in Embassies and have lovely dinners at lovely places like this. You’ll be at the wedding … all dressed up in morning suit. What fun!
‘I see they’re even making a musical about you Nick … what could be better?’