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Sunday, 23 May 2010

David Cameron faces backlash as more Tory pledges are axed

David Cameron faces backlash
as more Tory pledges are axed

Cameron risked alienating members of his own party yesterday as he revealed a “radical reforming” programme for his new “partnership Government” with Nick Clegg.

The Prime Minister admitted there was “bad news” for many Tories after key pledges had been scrapped in his coalition deal with the Lib Dems.

Promises to cut stamp duty and scrap bureaucratic NHS targets emerged as the latest casualties of policy wrangling between the parties.
Five more commissions – effectively new quangos – will be launched to consider polices the two parties could not agree on, including overhauling the Human Rights Act, reforming the banking system and cutting the spiralling public-sector pensions black hole. A further dozen reviews will be launched to examine other areas of disagreement.

But Mr Cameron insisted the parties had created an “extensive and detailed reforming agenda” that was “greater than the sum of our two manifestos.”

Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, his Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister were at the Treasury to launch their 36-page document The Coalition: Our Programme For Government. Senior Tory Cabinet ministers George Osborne and Theresa May and Lib Dem Business Secretary Vince Cable were present in a show of the new Government’s unity. The document lists pledges they plan to implement.

Many will be rapidly turned into proposals for next week’s Queen’s Speech. Among key Tory pledges are an annual cap on immigration from outside the European Union, a drive to create many more state schools and a ban on joining the euro. Action to tackle the binge- drinking epidemic also featured, including a ban on the sale of alcohol at below cost price. The Tories are to press ahead with a major welfare crackdown to slash benefits for the work shy.

A string of Lib Dem ideas for promoting civil liberties and political reform were also a key feature of the coalition plan.

But some Tories were dismayed that many Conservative manifesto pledges had been diluted or dumped altogether. Mr Cameron admitted some of his party’s policies had been “lost.”

But he insisted the coalition programme – compiled in nine days – was “remarkable”.

“Some policies have been lost on both sides, some have been changed and yes, we have had to find ways to deal with the issues where we profoundly disagree,” he said.

He warned Tory supporters: “The bad news is that some policies have been changed,” but he insisted the programme was more than a simple merger of the Tory and Lib Dem manifestos.

“The more we talked, the more we listened, the more we realised that our visions for this country and the values that inspired them are strengthened and enhanced by the act of the two parties coming together,” he said.

“We have tried to combine our party’s best ideas to create something that is greater than the sum of our two manifestos,” he said.

He said the plan combined “optimism” with “gritty realism about what we need to do”.

“Of course I cannot stand here and say there has been an effortless fusion of two manifestos. There has been negotiation. Some policies have been lost on both sides, some have been changed.”

The joint administration would be a “genuinely reforming radical Government”.

He added: “The more I see of this coalition in action, the more I see of its potential not just in solving the problems that lie before us but solving them with a shared set of values.”

Mr Clegg, who spoke first at the event, said: “Even if you’ve read 100 party manifestos, you’ve never read a document like this.”

He added: “Not one party’s ideas, not even just two parties’ ideas, but a joint programme for Government based on shared ambitions and shared goals.

“Compromises have, of course, been made on both sides, but those compromises have strengthened, not weakened, the final result.

“From different political traditions – Conservatism and Liberalism – we’ve come together to forge a single programme drawing on the strengths and traditions of both of our parties.”

Some Tories are particularly frustrated that many Lib Dem taxation policies have been adopted, including hiking capital gains tax to 40 or 50 per cent.

The document also revealed that a Tory plan to raise the stamp duty threshold to £250,000 for first-time buyers had also been put on the back burner.

A Tory plan to introduce a levy on foreign-based “non-domicile” tycoons was also dropped.

The nuclear deterrent will be maintained, with Trident scrutinised to ensure “value for money”. But Lib Dems “will continue to make the case for alternatives”.

There were also concerns that Tory law-and-order commitments had been watered down. While the Tory manifesto had promised legal protection for householders who tackled intruders, the coalition document instead said: “We will ensure that people have the protection that they need.”

But many of the coalition policies were welcomed – including the commitment to the Tory plan to limit annual immigration from outside the EU.

Former Labour minister Frank Field and senior Tory MP Nicholas Soames of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: “We warmly welcome the Prime Minister’s confirmation that it remains the intention of the Government to get net immigration down.”