David Cameron used the coalition talks with Nick Clegg as an excuse to ditch ‘daft’ Tory policies he secretly wanted to get rid of all along – such as scrapping inheritance tax and getting rid of his pledge to rip up the Human Rights Act, it was claimed last night.
The leader of Mr Clegg’s negotiating team, new Scottish Secretary Danny Alexander, said his Conservative counterparts, led by William Hague and George Osborne, produced a list of Mr Cameron’s manifesto pledges and invited the Lib Dems to strike them out.
And Mr Cameron’s controversial policy guru Steve Hilton was reportedly delighted that the coalition had enabled Mr Cameron to ‘bury the Tory Right-wing’.
Cameron used the coalition talks with Clegg as an excuse to ditch 'daft' Tory policies he secretly wanted to get rid of all along, it was claimed last night
The disclosure of just how easily – and willingly – the Conservatives surrendered key commitments to Mr Clegg threatens to spark a backlash against the shotgun wedding between the Tories and the Lib Dems.
A shocked Mr Alexander told Lib Dem MPs: ‘The Tories are ditching policies faster than they can list them.
They pointed to them and said, “That can go, that can go.” We thought, “If they are offering up all this, is there anything they will not do?”’
The Lib Dems seized the chance to scrap some of the policies most cherished by the Tory grassroots – including abandoning their promise to grab back powers from Brussels and not to increase capital gains tax.
Senior Lib Dem Lord Greaves, who was present when Mr Alexander reported back to MPs, said: ‘We were negotiating against people like George Osborne and Oliver Letwin who have never had to negotiate a thing in their lives.
'They are privileged little rich boys. The most difficult negotiation they had was when they proposed to their wives.
The disclosure of just how easily the Conservatives surrendered key commitments to Mr Clegg threatens to spark a backlash
‘Our negotiating team said the Conservatives told them, “There is something in your manifesto we would like to concede, can you add it to your list?” and “There are some things in our manifesto that are daft which we would be delighted if you would veto”.
‘It was men against boys. They were totally out of their depth. Our people were hard-nosed negotiators.’
Lord Greaves said Tory Right-wingers would be horrified when they discovered how easily their team surrendered key policies – and how keen they were to dump them for Lib Dem policies.
He said: ‘The Tory Right-wing will be livid but they are trapped and can do nothing about it. It is an extraordinarily good deal for the Lib Dems. We got around 35 items from our manifesto agreed by the Tories.’
A fellow Lib Dem said: ‘It seemed the Tories were under strict instructions from Cameron to do a deal whatever the price. The talks were supposed to be about each party’s red lines, but the Tories forgot to bring their red marker pen with them.
‘When Nick [Clegg] told Cameron he had not ruled out a deal with Labour and that he wanted a firm pledge on PR [proportional representation voting], Cameron was back on the phone in five minutes saying, “You’ve got it.” They couldn’t wait to drop their inheritance tax cut.’
A Lib Dem frontbencher said: ‘We thought the Tories would try to strike a tough bargain. But Danny said they were easy pickings. It was as though they couldn’t wait to get shot of chunks of their own manifesto.’
Right-wing Tory MP Philip Davies said: ‘The Lib Dems are entitled to crow. Our negotiators panicked.
‘It is absurd to give them five Cabinet jobs – that’s ten per cent of their MPs in the Cabinet. They are supposed to be the junior partner. We gave away too much.
‘I get the distinct impression that David Cameron is happier with his Lib Dems than he is with some of the people in his own party.’
Former Tory Cabinet Minister Norman Tebbit warned last night: ‘David Cameron may regard the Election result as a blessing in disguise since it allows him to take the Tory Party to the Left.
‘That may please the bright young things around him who include former Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters, but not our traditional supporters. Many will stop canvassing, stop raising money and go back to running their own lives.’
Trendy Mr Hilton, who devised the much-criticised ‘Big Society’ manifesto theme, and who was responsible for the Tories’ tree logo, is said to be among those who urged Mr Cameron to make big concessions.
‘Steve has long believed the party must reposition itself and will be happy to bury the Right,’ said a source.
The Conservatives denied their team, which consisted of Foreign Secretary Mr Hague, Chancellor
Mr Osborne, Tory policy chief Mr Letwin and Mr Cameron’s chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, had caved in.
‘If you study the agreement closely, we have gained much more than they have,’ said one. ‘They have agreed not to oppose nuclear energy, got rid of their foolish immigration amnesty and made many other concessions.’
Mr Osborne is said to be among those who believe the Tories have got the best of the bargain.
‘George is convinced that this will make it easier for us to swallow up the Lib Dems,’ said one MP.
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