Nick Clegg's tax cut claim


One of Nick Clegg's most revealing lines in his speech at the Liberal Democrat annual Welsh conference in Newport was the claim that both David Cameron and George Osborne refer to the £10,000 income tax personal allowance as "Nick's tax cut".

The Lib Dems get particularly annoyed when the Conservatives try to claim it as their own policy.

The party members I spoke to in Newport were honest in admitting the difficulty they face on the doorstep among some because of their part in the Conservative-led coalition.

One even said the party was suffering from mid-term blues because it was now in government.

The story the party tells is that it acts as a restraining influence on the Conservatives, particularly in areas like welfare reform.

What it's trying to do now is show it has done more and that's why the raising of the income tax personal allowance is so important, and has to be seen as a Liberal Democrat achievement.

War waged

I asked Nick Clegg what he thought of the recent row over who pays for the rail electrification of the south Wales valleys and his answer was surprisingly strong.

He said the First Minister Carwyn Jones had cynically tried to re-invent history by insisting that the UK government had agreed to pick up the bill, which will amount to hundreds of millions of pounds.

There are few senior figures in the UK government left who haven't been highly critical of the Welsh government for refusing to pay.

I'm told there's a lot of talk going on behind the scenes to try to resolve the issue but, in the meantime, a war continues to be waged on the airwaves.

There may not be a crack between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives on rail electrification, but the Tory "compare and contrast" strategy of criticising the Welsh government's record on health and education has caused some concern in the party.

Politically promiscuous

Mark Williams, the MP for Ceredigion, told me the problem is that he believes it tarnishes everyone and damages morale in schools and hospitals.

He believes the criticism should be more targeted at the Welsh government's stewardship of health and education, rather than all those who work in it.

This is something we heard a lot about last week at the Labour conference, and something we will hear a lot about next week at the Conservative conference in Llangollen.

The subject of whether the Liberal Democrats would enter another coalition after the general election came up in conversation at the conference.

You could argue the party is in a no-win situation here. If it enters a coalition with Labour then it will be accused of being politically promiscuous, go back in with the Tories and it'll risk accusations of being too close to them.

Nick Servini Article written by Nick Servini Nick Servini Political editor, Wales

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