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Nicholas Leonard: You can take it as gospel that David and Nick aren't best pals

IF David Cameron had not become British prime minister, he would have made a pretty competent Archbishop of Canterbury. Yesterday, in fact, he almost took on that job with the proclamation of an Easter Christian message.

Tony Blair was fervently religious but frightened of 'doing God' in case it cost the Labour party any votes. Cameron appears to have much less spiritual certainty than Blair but he has been through traumatic times with the death of a disabled son and he has no political inhibitions about quoting the Bible.

"In the Gospel of Mark," he said yesterday, "Jesus taught us to love God and love our neighbour. He led by example and for millions of us his teachings are just as relevant now as they were in his lifetime."

Cameron is not a missionary on a quest to convert the whole population to Christianity. He will be hosting a reception in Downing Street on Wednesday for all the main Christian leaders but he has already held similar functions for Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

That ecumenical theme will be echoed on Friday at the William and Kate wedding when the guests will include Cardinal Sean Brady. No one is more aware than Cameron that under the Act of Settlement, passed more than 300 years ago, Catholics are still forbidden from becoming king or queen. Since the act obliges the monarch to be head of the Church of England, it is hard to see how it could be changed without the reintegration of Rome and Canterbury.

Northern Ireland is not the only place where that would have repercussions. Scotland, too, to the consternation of mainstream politicians, is increasingly rife with sectarian violence in the Glasgow area, as evidenced by the nail-bomb parcels that were sent to the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and other prominent personalities.

The terror threat coincides with the closing stages of the election for the next Scottish parliament. Much to the fury of Labour, Alex Salmond and the Scottish Nationalists, who have run a minority government for the past four years with support from the Greens, look like getting close to a proper majority on May 5.

That could well give them the parliamentary clout, for the first time, to call a referendum on full independence for Scotland but Salmond is a wily operator and he will not push the button on such a drastic step until he is pretty sure that he can get the right result.

Cameron's message of 'love thy neighbour' coincided with some extremely unloving behaviour by his political neighbour, Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister. Poor Clegg has become a laughing stock and the target of innumerable unflattering cartoons and political satire programmes.

His hopes of success in the referendum to change the voting system next month have evaporated and he has finally flipped his lid with a media interview at the weekend in which he tore into Cameron and the Conservative establishment with extraordinary venom and said he hoped the referendum would prove "the death rattle of a right-wing elite". The present system, he claimed, was "a nice little racket' for Cameron and the Conservatives, under which they can "waft into power", and their campaign was based on "lies, misinformation and deceit".

The Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott said yesterday that Cameron was "the smiling assassin, stabbing Nick in the back".

Clegg himself is fed up with the notion that they are political bedfellows: "We are not there to become friends. I didn't come into this coalition government to look for friends."

That is just as well because he has very few of them at the moment and the chances of a revolt against his leadership, after the likely referendum defeat, look very high indeed.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband is trying to improve his image by having a throat operation to reduce his nasal accent. Margaret Thatcher benefited hugely from voice coaching and the chancellor, George Osborne, has also had advice on how to project his speeches and interviews.

Irish Independent