Why Cameron and Osborne have become red nationalisers of steel

If you had suggested to me in May last year that the newly elected Tory government would put public money into an ailing UK steel plant, I would have suggested you seek psychiatric help.

This would be a government that - like most Tory administrations - would be sickened by the idea of whole or partial nationalisation, especially of an industry widely seen as a lame duck - and whose survival is a million miles from being vital to the UK's economic future, for all that it was once a formidable part of our industrial past.

Apart from anything else, the previous Labour government - quite close to an election - had allowed MG Rover to go bust in 2005.

Surely David Cameron and George Osborne could not be redder than Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Well it turns out that Cameron and Osborne are more socialist than their Labour predecessors, in the sense that today Sajid Javid, the business secretary, has said that the government is prepared to invest in the Port Talbot steelworks alongside a yet-to-be-found private sector rescuer.

Javid has insisted that the investment would be made on "commercial terms".

But that is oxymoronic, in the sense that Port Talbot would not need government money, if the private sector thought it had a solid commercial future.

George Osborne and David Cameron Credit: PA

So what's going on?

Well, as if you needed telling, a battle over whether we stay in the European Union is what's occurring.

And, according to well placed government sources, David Cameron is terrified that if Port Talbot were to close mid-way through the referendum campaign, many voters would somehow blame the European Union for failing to do more to keep super-cheap Chinese steel from these shores.

He genuinely believes, I am told, that a Port Talbot closure would give a great boost to the Brexit clan.

So as I've been droning on and on about, this bloomin' referendum is having a very odd impact on the normal business of government.