February drew its chilly days to a close this week, but not before delivering another few ice-coated upsets for the prime minister.
Adele might have been flying the flag for the Brits over in Hollywood, thanks to an Oscar win for her omnipresent Skyfall theme song, but there wasn't a huge amount to celebrate back at home. With last week's triple A-credit downgrade still casting its murky shadow over the coalition government, it was a case of divide and fail to conquer as the Conservatives and Lib Dems went head-to-head in the Eastleigh by-election. Well, head-to-head was the idea. Ukip rather got in the way of that, with their representative, Diane James, relegating Conservative candidate Maria Hutchings into a rather undignified third place.
A by-election win for the Lib Dems might have provided a brief spell of respite for Nick Clegg, but his week wasn't all that much better than David Cameron's. Up until the Champagne corks started to pop in Hampshire, allegations of a sex scandal cover-up were threatening to railroad the party's entire reputation. And it's unlikely that Mike Thorton's win in Eastleigh will be enough to silence the chatter regarding the party's handling of sexual harassment accusations against their former chief executive Lord Rennard. If Lib Dem peer Baronesss Hussein-Ece is correct and there are more women ready to 'come out of the woodwork', it is essential Lib Dem leaders are seen to be acting decisively in getting to the core of the issue.
If Cameron or Clegg are looking for a dignified way of making an exit anytime soon, they could do worse than learn a lesson from Groupon founder Andrew Mason. The outgoing CEO of the discount deals website sent his team an email this week, which started, "I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding -- I was fired today". In a humble and funny memo to staff, Mason managed to endear himself to just about everyone, quite possibly even those who had decided his time with the company was up.
Of course, no matter who is in charge, there's no certainty the Great British public want anything to do with politics right now, as quite a few of them made clear in Eastleigh this week. To-the-point, and sometimes explicit, window stickers and door messages were left across the district for those on the campaign trail as by-election fatigue set in. If you missed the revolt, see a small selection in our gallery, here.
All that voter apathy might be enough to drive an MP to drink, which of course has nothing to do with why so many are hoping David Cameron drop what appears to be his universally unpopular plan, to introduce minimum prices for units of alcohol.
The PM insists he won't be U-turning on the 45p minimum cost to single measures of booze, which would mean a bottle of wine couldn't be sold for less than £4.22. There are plenty inside his cabinet who believe he should be considering other ways of controlling anti-social drinking.
With the budget just around the corner, and a general election close enough that we can start wildly speculating about possible outcomes, the government needs some new ideas, and fast.
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