Lib Dems 'claim credit for nice things that happen'

Tensions within the coalition re-surfaced yesterday as a senior Tory accused the Liberal Democrats of trying to claim credit for the "nice things" the Government was doing.

Former cabinet Minister John Redwood strongly rejected suggestions that the role of the Lib Dems in government was to "bridle the instincts" of the Conservatives.

He said that he and other Tories had long campaigned for cutting income tax for the lower paid, channelling funding to poorer pupils and restoring civil liberties – for which the Lib Dems were seeking to claim the credit.

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In a signal of possible battles to come, Mr Redwood said the real differences between the two parties lay on issues like Europe, with the Tories determined to oppose the "endless drift towards more EU government".

His comments came after a string of Lib Dem Ministers were caught by undercover reporters criticising policies such as the increase in university tuition fees and the scrapping of child benefit for higher earners, and suggesting they had played a moderating role in the coalition on issues like Europe and immigration. Mr Redwood said that while he was not surprised by some of the things that had been said, he did not like the way the role of the two parties in the coalition was being presented.

"One of the things I do not like is the 'new narrative' that Lib Dems have come into the Government to bridle the instincts of Conservatives," he said.

"This story line entails allowing Lib Dems to claim credit for all the nice things that happen. As a Conservative I have campaigned long and hard for less income tax on the lower paid. I do not take kindly to being told we only have it thanks to Lib Dems.

"As a Conservative I helped oppose the erosion of our civil liberties under Labour, and look forward to their restoration under this Government. Again, there is no Lib Dem monopoly over civil liberties.

"The Conservative party wanted to spend more per pupil on educating those from the poorest and least privileged backgrounds. The pupil premium was not just a Lib Dem wish."

He said that the "real inter-party disagreements" revolved around attitudes towards the EU and support for enterprise.

"Many Conservatives will judge the coalition by how well it changes the endless drift towards more EU government and bureaucracy. Conservatives also want to see success rewarded and enterprise praised," he said.

Meanwhile, a senior Conservative Minister was quoted as saying that the Tories and Lib Dems could field joint coalition candidates in some constituencies at the next General Election – a move that would alarm activists in both parties. The unnamed Minister, said to be part of David Cameron's inner circle, told the Sunday Telegraph: "I would be relaxed (about the idea]."