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Togetherness... Don Foster and Eric Pickles

Paul Barltrop | 11:51 UK time, Monday, 11 October 2010

Bath and LibDem MP Don Foster embracing Tory cabinet minister Eric Pickles

Politics never ceases to surprise.

At this year's Tory and Lib Dem party conferences journalists looked in vain for legions of activists angry at the coalition.

Instead, with the Conservatives in Birmingham, I was treated to the strange sight of the visiting Bath MP Don Foster (Lib Dem) embracing Tory cabinet minister Eric Pickles.

They hugged for the cameras.

"We are together!" proclaimed the portly Mr Pickles.

"Forever!" added an aide.

"No, not forever," chuckled Don Foster, their arms still intertwined. "Distinct parties working together in the common interests of the country!"

He found no hardship in spending two days at his former foes' conference.

The political co-habitation has even earned praise from Ian Liddell-Grainger.

Back in May the Bridgwater MP was an instant critic of the coalition, stating he "never trusted the Lib Dems", and poking fun at his neighbours who'd been appointed ministers.

Five months on, the contrast is amazing.

"Dealing with my two local MPs, Jeremy Browne and David Heath, has actually been a revelation. They're doing really well," he told me. "I find that quite intriguing!"

His colleague Jacob Rees-Mogg of North East Somerset has gone even further.

He's proposing a political marriage, saying the two parties should fight the next general election in coalition.

That sort of talk would have been unheard of a few months ago.

And I suspect we won't hear much of it around the time of next year's elections, when local Tories and Lib Dems will do battle for control of the local council.

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