The ConHome stock-take of Conservative and Liberal Democrat compromises

by Stephen Tall on November 5, 2010

ConservativeHome’s Tim Montgomerie has today published a run-down of what he sees as the key compromises and trade-offs on new policies that have been made within government by David Cameron and Nick Clegg since the Coalition Agreement was signed.

The graphic below sums up Tim’s view of the overall effect — that the Tories are being dragged to the liberal-centre as a result of pressure from the Liberal Democrats:

Tim lists 10 separate post-Agreement compromises settled, in his view, in the Lib Dems’ favour and which few Tories will like, including:

  • A reformed House of Lords elected by PR. Although this was also a Tory manifesto promise it was not a first term priority. Use of proportional representation is also a LibDem win.
  • No British Bill of Rights of the kind that might have stopped votes for prisoners.
  • No repatriation of powers from the EU.
  • Suspension of all major family policy initiatives including long-grassing of the introduction of a tax allowance for marriage.
  • A delay to Trident renewal until after the next General Election.
  • Greater use of community sentences, less use of prison.
  • Higher rates of Capital Gains Tax.
  • Yesterday’s referral of NewsCorp’s takeover of BSkyB to OfCom

And a further 5 compromises that, though they are wins for the Lib Dems, are also appealing to Tories, such as lifting low-paid workers out of the income tax system, the pupil premium for disadvantaged children, reform of the welfare system to ‘make work pay’, and Steve Webb’s draft idea for a universal pension of £140.

Of course, there have been sizeable concessions made by the Lib Dems to the Conservatives, too — chiefly from the Lib Dem side the acceptance that the structural deficit should be eliminated entirely during the lifetime of this parliament (which is forcing many painful spending cuts, especially in welfare, that the Lib Dems would have preferred not to make), and the acceptance by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable of the broad thrust of the Browne Report’s recommendation for higher university tuition fees in England (albeit with a cap still in place, and a more progressive repayment structure than the Tories wanted).

To those two major concessions are also added Chris Huhne’s green lighting of nuclear power (a U-turn supported by most Lib Dem members), the introduction of a cap on economic immigration (though this is being watered-down in the face of economic reality), and the abandonment of key Lib Dem policies such as our amnesty for illegal immigrants, and Vince Cable’s mansion tax.

Such are the realities of coalition politics — everyone has to compromise, recognising that no one party won the election. If the public really wanted undiluted Conservative or Lib Dem policies we needed to vote for them in sufficient numbers: we, the public, didn’t give either party that mandate, so now the politicians are making the best of the situation. Policies from all parties are being diluted: no wonder purists hate it.

As I commented in May, immediately after the Coalition Agreement was signed:

Many of the hobby horses of political parties which are not mainstream, and do not command majority public support, are jettisoned. Instead politicians learn to focus on those policy areas which they know the public will like, and on which there’s widespread agreement. Parties hate it – they like to be in control – but the public is the winner.

* With thanks to Tim Montgomerie for permission to reproduce the graphics used in this post.