By Tim Montgomerie
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Some Tories are beginning to wonder if the Liberal Democrats can play fair. Although today's '£1 billion jobs scheme' was very much a co-operative effort, it was agreed that Nick Clegg should front the launch. But this then appeared in today's Guardian:
"Liberal Democrats said it had been a battle to persuade their Conservative partners to back a wage subsidy scheme, saying it was "like getting a vegetarian to go and buy a kebab on a Friday night"."
Nice line and intended to reinforce the great danger for the Tories that they're blamed for nasty things like rolling back employment laws while the Lib Dems are responsible for all of the nice things – like helping the unemployed.
This briefing follows a week or two of intensive claims by the Liberal Democrats to have protected a 5.2% uprating of benefits. The briefing was largely given to the FT (the best place to find out what civil servants and the yellow half of government are thinking).
The one place which had been safe and secret space for the Coalition had been the Quad – where Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Alexander meet to take the big strategic decisions. That, following recent leaks about the Autumn Statement, is no longer so watertight.
Fairly or unfairly Olly Grender is getting the blame for the general problem (I have no idea about the kebab quote). Olly is acting as Clegg's chief briefer while Lena Pietsch is on maternity leave. Given that she's only likely to be in the job for 12 months she doesn't have the same incentives to build long-term relations and trust with Tories.