UK Politics

Coalition to survive despite spats, insists Alexander

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Media captionDanny Alexander: "In the future after the election, there are quite big differences between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats"

Senior Lib Dem Danny Alexander has insisted that the trading of insults with the Conservatives will "not undermine" the coalition's ability to "work together effectively".

He made the claim after implying in a Daily Telegraph article that the Tories were in a "pre-election panic".

Meanwhile PM David Cameron said the Lib Dems were "all over the place" on the subject of cutting the deficit.

The coalition is scheduled to run until the election in May next year.

BBC political correspondent Ben Wright said: "It seems the glue that bound the coalition together is quickly coming unstuck.

"With polling day less than five months away, the two parties are now desperate to prove their differences to voters."

In an email to Tory MPs at the weekend, Mr Cameron dismissed the level of influence the Liberal Democrats had in drawing up last week's Autumn Statement and insisted the measures were "distinctly" Conservative.

The prime minister also said the Lib Dems would be willing to "prop up a failing Labour government" after the general election next year, which he believed would put "hopes, dreams, and livelihoods" of millions of Britons at stake.

However, in his Telegraph article, Mr Alexander accused the Tories of getting "blown off course".

He said: "A mix of unfunded tax promises, harsh spending plans, and pandering to UKIP may be born of pre-election panic, but it is not economically credible."

Mr Alexander also said that the Tories wanted to "inflict unnecessary pain" on the UK because they were "economically committed" to "shrinking the state ever further".

Last week Mr Alexander signed off the Autumn Statement with Chancellor George Osborne, and both coalition parties have agreed to try to balance the books by 2018.

The prime minister's email comes after Mr Osborne claimed the Lib Dems would wreak "economic chaos" if they were left to pursue their own agenda.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg then hit back, accusing the Tories of "kidding" voters over the scale of cuts they would impose if they won next May.

"I just think the Conservatives are kidding themselves and seeking to kid British voters if they are claiming that it is possible to balance the books, deliver unfunded tax cuts, shrink the state and support public services in the way that everybody wants," he told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

'Policy objectives'

Asked on Monday's BBC Radio 4 Today programme if it was possible for the present administration to survive, given the mounting sniping within the coalition, Mr Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said: "Absolutely it is.

"What we have done, and we showed this last week in the Autumn Statement, is work effectively together to deliver a very Liberal Democrat package of measures with lots of income tax cuts, tax reforms, sticking to the path on the public finances.

"So we have shown that we can work well together in this Parliament. What we are doing is something that should be totally unsurprising, which is two political parties - with very different ideologies - setting out their views about the future of this country in a clear and distinct way and I am going to continue doing that for the next five months and beyond but that does not in any way undermine our ability to work effectively together in this coalition to keep the country on the right path."

Asked if there could be another Conservative/Lib Dem administration he said: "As we said at the general election in 2010, we would seek to talk first with whichever party had the strongest mandate in the event of a hung parliament.

"That is the responsible thing to do. What we are doing now is setting out precisely and clearly what are the Liberal Democrat policy objectives in the next parliament."

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