Sky News have managed to get hold of a Tory briefing document which gives its MPs and media spokespeople the messages they want to emerge from their Conference. It was drawn up in the wake of the Reckless defection and Newmark resignation. Things drawn up in haste can often cause more problems than they resolve and this is no exception. Take, for example, the bit where they say that they are not stating red lines in coalition negotiations before, er, stating one:
Q. Is policy X a red line for future coalition negotiations?
A. We’re not going to answer hypothetical questions about red lines for coalition negotiations. Our aim is to win an outright majority at the next election so we secure a better future for Britain and that’s what we’re working towards.
Q. But what about your Europe referendum? You’ve said that’s a red line?
A. As our commitment to have a referendum would have to be fulfilled by a specific date after the next election, we think it is right in this one instance to confirm it’s a red line.
For me the most amusing thing was this, in their list of achievements:
We’ve taken 3 million of the lowest paid out of income tax altogether
Now, whose idea was that? Not the Tories’, that’s for sure. In fact, at around 1 hour 18 minutes in, we have David Cameron explicitly tell Nick Clegg that the Liberal Democrat policy of raising the tax threshold wasn’t affordable:
They wanted to cut taxes for rich, dead people -and, given Osborne’s announcements at the Conservative Party conference yesterday, plus ça change. We wanted to cut taxes for ordinary working people and have over-delivered on that one.
And, as exhibit B, the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto:
And it’s not as if the Tories embraced the idea in Coalition. As Nick Clegg said in March, he had to drag them kicking and screaming to do it at every single budget:
I – how can I – I’ll try and be polite on this. My Coalition partners, by contrast, have been spectacularly inconsistent. Beginning of the Parliament they were first going on about inheritance tax cuts for millionaires. Then they wanted to fiddle around with the upper rate of income tax. Then they wanted to fiddle around with the taxes for married couples. Then they wanted to fiddle around with taxes to give incentives to people to give up their employment rights to take up shares.
So they’ve got a fair amount of brass neck to now claim that somehow all they ever wanted all along was to see the allowance go up, because that’s not what they said in public, and crucially, it’s not what – actually what they said in private, either. I’ve had to drag the Conservative party, kicking and screaming, in every single budget negotiation.
We need to get in their face when they do stuff like this. David Cameron has also been trying to take credit for our Steve Webb’s Pensions Triple Lock on the Today programme.
What’s the antidote to this? I can’t think of a better one than talking to voters and telling them what we’ve brought to the Government. Our survival depends on it.
I have said many, many times before that we also need to give people positive reasons to vote for us, to show how we have put our anti-establishment, breaking down of barriers values of freedom and opportunity into practice in government. We’ve done lots of that from changing attitudes to mental health to giving extra money to disadvantaged kids in school to expanding childcare.
That positive message is very important, but we also need to remember that all those things about the Tory conference that turn our stomachs, from welfare to civil liberties, would be being implemented right now if it weren’t for us. That’s the reality of the Tories governing alone. I really hope it doesn’t take a spell of the Tories with an overall majority to show how much the Liberal Democrats did to hold them back.