James Forsyth

The pledge divide

The pledge divide
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Over at the FT's Westminster blog, Alex Barker asks why it is that David Cameron's expensive personal pledge on pensioner benefits has survived the spending review while Nick Clegg's personal pledge to scrap tuition fees, which would have cost roughly the same amount, has been spectacularly ditched.

As Alex argues, one reason is that Clegg himself was not particularly attached to his pledge on fees. Indeed, he had tried to change the policy several times in opposition.

The other is that George Osborne, who is the Tories' chief election strategist as well as the Chancellor, is determined to protect the Cameron brand. When one right-winger made the case to him that these benefits were poorly targeted, Osborne replied that he wasn't prepared to do anything that risked an equivalent to George Bush senior going back on his "read my lips: no new taxes" pledge.