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MarriageisadivorcingissueRachel Sylvester, from her new perch in The Times, suggests that there is "a fundamental disagreement" between David Cameron and George Osborne when it comes to the family. Rachel Sylvester is probably right in saying there are differences. ConHome has heard the same.  Osborne is more socially liberal than Mr Cameron (and also, as a matter of fact, more hawkish on foreign policy) but it’s not a "hot" dispute. Mr Cameron began his leadership campaign with a pledge to recognise marriage in the tax system and there’ll be no retreat from that pledge. In a recent speech to the Centre for Policy Studies Mr Osborne was emphatic in his support for the party’s family policies – recognising that stronger families were essential to reduce the long-term welfare burden.

Given the "hot" tensions between Brown and Blair it is understandable that journalists are keen to see parallels in the Cameron-Osborne relationship (Peter Oborne has done the same).  It is probably true that Mr Osborne is at least as influential as Mr Brown was in the comparative stage of preparing for government.  Mr Osborne as General Election coordinator has made a large share of the biggest strategic decisions over the last year – shaking up Campaign Boris, hiring Andy Coulson, making the inheritance tax promise.  But there isn’t the rivalry that existed between Brown and Blair.  The two men get on well and with Andy Coulson and Steve Hilton are members of what Iain Martin has called The Quartet – the group of four that makes all the big judgments about Tory strategy.  It was David Davis’ exclusion from the inner circle (not the formal meetings, which he sometimes chaired) that contributed to his decision to resign from the frontbench.

If the two most powerful men in the Conservative Party agreed on everything it would be spooky.  It’s good that they see some things slightly differently.  Mr Osborne is more of a hare, Mr Cameron more of a tortoise although the Tory leader is apparently now readier than his Shadow Chancellor to push towards lower taxation.  Ms Sylvester is also unlikely to find the wider party unhappy with Mr Cameron’s policy on marriage (Tim Yeo and a few others excepted).  ConservativeHome’s own poll of the next generation of Conservative candidates found 93% favoured support for marriage from the tax system.

5pm: With the Daily Mail jumping on to the Sylvester story it’s worth noting this line from George Osborne’s July speech: "We are committed to introducing a recognition of marriage into the tax system." Seems pretty unambiguous to us.

23 comments for: The Cameron-Osborne rock

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