'Not 12 - but probably 10'

George Osborne Image copyright Getty Images

Much has been made already in the new year of the so-called differentiation strategy between the Tories and the Lib Dems.

The suggestion is that over the course of the next 10 months, the Lib Dems will start to redefine their own party mission - to try to claw their way back in the polls and eventually in the general election.

Monday's tone from Nick Clegg was markedly stroppy towards his coalition partners - he talked of the cuts to welfare announced as being "unfair, unbalanced, lopsided and extreme".

And he did so quite deliberately. What's interesting however is how much the language - and indeed the position - may be manufactured.

My sources within the cabinet say the £25bn of cuts in the next parliament announced by the chancellor this week have "complete consensus" - and all the two governing parties are really discussing is what proportion goes where.

"But there's no way Nick Clegg would accept £12bn of cuts on welfare," I protest.

"Not 12 - but probably 10," a source replied. "The differences between them are much smaller than anyone thinks."