Lib Dems and Tories are an uneasy match

Steve Dinneen
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DAVID Cameron is safely in 10 Downing Street and Nick Clegg has been handed powers a Lib Dem would have thought impossible just a few weeks ago.

But the match is not one made in heaven and both sides are already smarting from the concessions each will have to make in order for this marriage of convenience to work.

Tory back benchers are seething that key policies – not least a referendum on electoral reform – will be pushed through.

Lib Dems are also furious that their leader has sacrificed key issues in exchange for a position of power.

Despite a bitter spat during the televised debate over the issue of Britain’s nuclear armament, Clegg appears to have caved into Tory demands to maintain the UK’s £25bn a year Trident nuclear deterrent system. The issue is close to the heart of many Lib Dem party members and is likely to prove incredibly unpopular.

This issue is probably the most embarrassing for Clegg to deal with. He vehemently opposed Cameron’s proposals for a cap on immigration, branding it unworkable and unfair. Clegg came in for criticism for suggesting an immigration amnesty – a policy that was slammed by his rivals. Now he appears to have agreed to sacrifice this key pledge.

The Lib Dems have agreed to drop their so-called “mansion tax” on the rich. In turn the Tories have scrapped plans to hike the inheritance tax threshold to £1m – a policy seen as a sop to the wealthy.

The pro–European Lib Dems have agreed to shelve any ambitions of strengthening links with the continent.

The Lib Dems have repeatedly hit out at “masochistic” Tory plans to make deep and painful cuts to the economy. However, they appear to have agreed that the situation now needs to be immediately addressed and the noises coming out of the Liberal camp back this up.

Five cabinet posts, including Nick Clegg as deputy Prime Minister and Danny Alexander as Scottish secretary, will go to the Lib Dems. But the concession that will really sting the Tories is that 20 Lib Dems in total will take government jobs – more than a third of their elected members.

This is a thorny issue with many Tory MPs who see any chipping away at the first past the post system as anathema. However, it is thought this is an issue the Lib Dems would not fully capitulate on. Instead they have been offered a referendum on an “alternative vote” system. This is a very watered down version of the proportional representation system the party has been pushing for.