Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Why can't Vince read Dave's lips?

It is now well known that the Conservatives had planned to break their election promises over pensioner benefits - but backed off because of the scale of the reaction to their child benefit cuts, and also because attention was drawn to David Cameron's use of the "read my lips" phrase on the night before the election.

Yet Business Secretary Vince Cable still expects the change to be made.

Today's Cameron-Clegg press conference should give the Prime Minister a chance to give a categorical assurance that this will not happen during this Parliament, or to put us all on notice that none of his election promises are safe from being broken.

* Can the Prime Minister give a categorical assurance about the winter fuel payment and other pensioner benefits across this Parliament? Having told every pensioner on the eve of the election that they could "read my lips", will he clarify whether that was valid for the whole of the Parliament or just the first Christmas?

* Have the PM and his Deputy now got through all of the election pledges they will need to break - or might they be reneging on more promises in the future?

I want to say to British people clearly and frankly this; if you are elderly, if you are frail, if you are poor, if you are needy a Conservative Government will always look after you.

On the journey we need to take this country on no one will be left behind.

And let me say very clearly to pensioners if you have a Conservative Government your Winter Fuel Allowance, your bus pass, your Pension Credit, your free TV licence all these things are safe.

You can read my lips, that is a promise from my heart.

Don’t believe the lies you’re being told by the Labour Party

David Cameron, on the eve of voting in the 2010 General Election, among several similar election campaign comments.

They had made a pledge not to do anything about universal child benefit. Cameron had personally pledged not to do it, so they had to bite this bullet and, you know, because they were going to have to reduce universal benefit, they haven’t yet done winter fuel payments, but that’s coming, I think.

- Business Secretary Vince Cable, taped by undercover Daily Telegraph reporters

Both Cameron and Clegg have both been serial breakers of election pledges. Both have apologised - over child benefits and tuition fees - for making promises they went on to break.

Yet reluctantly keeping (for now) the pensioner pledge is being used by Number 10 to attempt to rewrite this history: take the report from James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday a week ago that "Breaking one of Cameron’s personal promises is one of the great no-nos of this Government. All the way through the spending review, great care – and cost – was taken to protect any commitment that Cameron himself had made. Downing Street is desperate to protect the Cameron brand. They know that a leader’s word has to mean something; the problems that the Lib Dems are having right now stem from the fact that Nick Clegg has had to break one of his own personal pledges".

That is simply at odds with the facts about Cameron's own broken promises.

But sinners can repent.

And both Cameron and Clegg can today put us on notice as to whether they have broken all of the election pledges that they will need to - or whether they will be coming back for more in the new year.

Could "no more broken promises" be the new year's resolution that the leaders of the Coalition government need?

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