Shortly before the Commons broke up for Christmas, and a week after he “vetoed” the EU fiscal compact, David Cameron attended one of the most generous meetings of the 1922 committee of his career. Ordinarily touchy backbenchers nodded enthusiastically at their Prime Minister as they went inside. As one joked, Dave could have made a Christmas present of the Falklands to Cristina Kirchner and no one would have minded.
No more. The suspicions of the Tory backbenches are back. This week, they are worried about Dave’s announcement that he will do nothing to stop Vince Cable from appointing Professor Les Ebdon to the head of Offa, the university access watchdog. Ebdon is an academic from the University of Bedfordshire, who has annoyed several elite universities by threatening to cut the fees they can charge if they don’t admit enough applicants from poor backgrounds. Despite the fact that he has the support of David Willetts, his appointment is opposed by Tory backbench MPs. All four Conservative members of the Business Select Committee voted against Offa-ing him the job (sorry).