Cameron manouvres around Lib Dems

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron appears intent on derailing the Liberal Democrat conference, with another calculated attack on the party this morning.

As the conference entered its first full day of events, Mr Cameron said there were only paper-thin differences between the two parties’ policies.

The comments, made in a comment piece for the Observer newspaper today, inflamed Nick Clegg, who devoted much of his welcome speech to conference last night to attacking the Tory leader.

With echoes of the 1997 general election campaign, in which many Labour and Lib Dem voters and candidates openly or surreptitiously cooperated to get rid of the Tories, Mr Cameron urged for cooperation between the two parties.

“I don’t believe in drawing dividing lines where they don’t really exist,” the Conservative leader wrote.

“Just when Britain needs a strong coalition for progressive change in our politics, I believe their leader is taking his party in the wrong direction. Instead of explaining what unites Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, he’s trying to drive a wedge between us.”

Mr Cameron went on to argue that both parties are singing from the same hymn sheet when it came to the environment, civil liberties, decentralisation of power and social mobility.

“There’s barely a cigarette paper between us in all these areas,” the Tory leader continued.

“It’s clear: the real enemy of progressive politics is not the Conservatives and I would not claim it is the Liberal Democrats. In truth, it is the bureaucratic, backward-looking, big state government that Labour epitomises.”

Mr Clegg instantly rebuked the comment when he appeared on the Andrew Marr show this morning.

The Tory leader was trying to “airbrush out the differences” between the two parties, the Lib Dem leader said.

The Cameron piece comes just days after Conservative chairman Eric Pickles urged Lib Dem voters to “come home” to the Conservative party.

The comments were ridiculed by former leader Charlie Kennedy during his well-received speech at the opening rally last night.