It's not just the Lib Dems putting a brake on sensible policies

It’s not just the Lib Dems putting a brake on sensible policies

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Alex Wickham

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Alex Wickham is a reporter at the Guido Fawkes blog, as well as contributor to The Sun on Sunday. He is the political editor of
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David Cameron told last week’s Spectator that he has a “little black book” of Conservative policies he has been unable to implement because of the Liberal Democrats. The Prime Minister is doing his best to convince wavering Tory voters, not to mention his own backbenchers, that the Lib Dems have put a brake on sound conservative policies that only a Tory majority can deliver.

“I think we could go further on welfare reform, to sharpen work incentives and get more people out of poverty. I can see clearly now what needs to be done in terms of our relationship with Europe, when it comes to building a pro-enterprise economy how we go further and faster on backing entrepreneurship, cutting business taxes, getting our economy moving.”

This actually sounds pretty good.

A manifesto pledging a much tougher stance on welfare, tax cuts and an European Union (EU) referendum is not an unattractive offer at all. Cameron has no problem with the rhetoric, with identifying what voters on the right want. The problem is it isn’t quite true that the Lib Dems are the ones putting a brake on right-wing policies in Coalition. Often, it is Cameron himself.

Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday splashed on the “No. 10 plan to cap benefit at two children”. Proposed by Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi – famous for charging the taxpayer to keep his horses warm, but perhaps more importantly a member of the PM’s policy board – the idea is tough but fair.

Child benefit would be limited to a family’s first two children. Families would lose their entitlement to child tax credit for any more than two kids. Up to £5 billion would be saved per year. Zahawi explains his reasoning:

“Welfare will always be there to help them take responsible decisions about work and family. In return, they can no longer assume the taxpayer has a bottomless purse. Capping welfare by family size would save billions and help the next generation think more carefully about their relationship with the welfare state. And it would restore the original bargain made between citizens and state: a safety net in return for personal responsibility.”

This makes sense. Population demographics mean that from now on governments of any colour will have to make unpopular decisions about how the relationship between the state and pensioners, the young, those using the National Health Service, those on benefits.

From a perspective of social justice, it does seem unfair that two parents working full-time with two children make a decision not to have a third because they cannot afford it, while their taxes contribute to the child benefit of workless families on their third, fourth or fifth child.

Within hours of Zahawi announcing his policy, Number 10 had said no. Paul Waugh quotes a Downing Street source as all but ruling it out completely: “This is not government policy and is not supported by the PM”.

Nick Clegg’s opposition to the idea goes without saying, yet this is Cameron stepping in. It is easy for the Tory side of government to blame their Lib Dem counterparts when they are unable to push policies through. Many senior Tories are genuine when they say this. Think of George Osborne’s suggestion that the benefit cap could be cut further under a Tory government, a sensible suggestion that the Lib Dems would veto, and that surely all Tories would support.

Yet often throughout the three and a half years of Coalition it has not been the Lib Dems putting a brake on such policies, but the PM himself. Cameron talks about his little black book of policies the Lib Dems have blocked. I wonder if he also has a little yellow book of policies he has been able to tell his backbenchers were only blocked because of the Lib Dems, but secretly he was rather pleased to have an excuse to say no to.

About Alex Wickham

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Alex Wickham is a reporter at the Guido Fawkes blog, as well as contributor to The Sun on Sunday. He is the political editor of

  • keith

    nice article Alex but it could have been headlined ” separated at birth ” with a pictures of clegg and Cameron. because we know if there is another hung parliament and the Tories and liberals were to get together again, all those hopeful policies you mentioned would end up in the bin again, the one thing Cameron clearly lacks is principles

  • JackyTreehorn

    I have thought this for some time now. At best Cameron was weak and did not have the courage to run a minority government at worst he agreed with many of the wishy washy centre left ideas of Clegg and Blair.
    He should have put forward sensible Conservative ideas in a minority government and dared the left to vote them down, he didn’t because he is not a conviction politician and for that reason I urge everyone to vote UKIP.
    If you vote Cameron you will get Labour in coalition with the LibDems.

  • SonofBoudica

    And if you vote Ukip you will get Labour – with or without the LibDems. We’re doomed I tell you…doomed!

  • Millsy

    You needed more examples – this latest effort on child benefit is whacky. Just comes across as punishing people with children for the sake of it

  • VacantPossession

    We know this, which is sadly why Ed Balls will be walking into #10 after the election.

    Cameron may not approve of the nanny state however he does not act for the wishes of the people; My example is his attitude on EU referendum Commons vote – Monday 24 October 2011, a vote established as a result of more than 100,000 people signing an e-petition. Cameron put a three line whip ensuring the outcome as neither Labour nor the liberals like a democratic vote (Aside: if you are in any doubt about Labour & liberal antagonism
    towards democracy, check out their voting on boundary reform).

    This double speak of ‘I am acting for Britain’ and ‘I don’t trust the public’ displays an arrogance towards the populace which has not gone unnoticed.

    Many are even willing to risk another labour media grid and borrowing driven spending splurge destruction of the country by making a protest vote with UKIP.

    Who can blame them?

  • Penfold

    Cameron is doubly hamstrung….Lib-Dems and Brussels.

    We really do need to get a grip and realise that successive governments have handed over powers of governance to Brussels and the EU.
    To actually produce a manifesto of any worth requires the UK to recover governance from the EU. That can only be achieved by invoking Article 50.

  • derekemery

    Money is real whereas politics is merely a belief and based on little more than bull shine in real world terms . The UK has the second highest levels of public debt in the world and is on an eternal upwards trajectory for public debt/GDP ratio. See “The future of public debt debt: prospects and implications” by the BIS at
    The lowest UK debt/GDP ratio that the BIS could predict was 300% by 2040 based on inconceivably low levels of public spend especially with ageing demographics. Immigration makes little or no difference to ageing demographic problems.
    Labour and Lib Dem inclinations are to spend more each year on unfunded spending (i.e. increasing our debt/GDP ratio deliberately.)
    Politicians can’t help being incompetent in all areas of science maths and finance as the selection process favours people without skills. However the UK will not be able to borrow its way up to 300% as nobody will lend at affordable rates. All the left can do is left is print money to maintain spendthrift spending levels. However this will mean increasing poverty in the UK as the pound sinks in parallel with food and energy costs as imports becoming too expensive for more and more. You cannot print your way to wealth but the left think you can.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Cameron and Clegg are virtually indistinguishable. They are both basically “orange-book liberals.”
    Cameron has tried to drag his party to the left and Clegg has tried to drag his to the right – so that they can both share the Orange Glow.
    There’s no point expecting any Conservative policies from Cameron. It’s all just talk. If he had any intention of enacting Conservative policies, he wouldn’t be in a coalition: he’d have won the last General Election.

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