Following a hit and miss interview with Jeremy Vine where Energy and Climate Change Minister Ed Davey appeared to say none of his party’s policies were set in stone, the Lib Dems have vowed to block Tory cuts to the welfare budget should they discuss a new coalition after the general election.
Nick Clegg has lined his party up in a centre-left position, able to form a coalition with both the Conservatives and Labour and highlighted five key ‘priority areas’ which featured on the front page of their manifesto, launched today.
But when it came down to simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers Mr Davey, who is fighting to hold on to his Surrey seat of Kingston and Surbiton, couldn’t bring himself to commit the Lib Dems to any real hard and fast policies when offered a second bite at power, instead blustering about the “priorities on the front page of our manifesto”.
Things got worse for Mr Davey when Vine suggested that if the manifesto only had ‘priorities’ it “suggests they’re all tradable.”
Trying to toughen his stance, Mr Davey snapped back, “We delivered the front page of our manifesto in the coalition agreement” before being reminded that didn’t include tuition fees.
“That wasn’t on the front page of our manifesto,” came his astonishing reply, before responding to Vine’s taunts of, “That was page two, was it?” by angrily saying “I don’t know what page it was on, Jeremy.”
The manifesto launch itself was more like a shopping list using tax payers money, with massive pledges on spending and still a target of balancing the budget by 2018, meaning an increase in the national debt and debt repayments.
But balancing the budget didn’t seem to be a red line either, with the minister not ruling out a coalition with Labour despite their £30bn black hole by the end of the parliament.
Speaking at a rave venue in Battersea, the party’s leader Mr Clegg said the Lib Dems in coalition would “add a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one”, the Guardian reports.
Also speaking at the launch was former minister David Laws, who said the party would be “insane” for laying down red lines for coalition negotiations ahead of any vote.
“It would be an insane way of managing a negotiation when we don’t know what we will have after the next parliament, so we are not using the language of red lines and non-red lines,” he said.
However the orange book Lib Dem was noticeably tougher on welfare cuts than he was on an EU vote, despite saying the next parliament would be “blighted” by a referendum.
“We are not prepared to do that … What is on the front page of our manifesto is: ‘balance the budget fairly,” he said when discussing the Conservative plans to slash welfare.
“You cannot balance the budget fairly on the back of £12bn of welfare cuts for people on lower and middle incomes.”
But he said the Lib Dems would not block an EU referendum, saying “There is… amongst a lot of people in the country… a worry about Labour which has not just been there under the present leadership team but for as long as I can remember.”