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'Common ground' and conflict between parties

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 08 May 2010

The Tories and Lib Dem may have been locked in fierce battle during the election campaign, but as the parties talk, David Cameron has noted "there are many areas of common ground". But what are they? And what could cause friction?

David Cameron (Getty)

The similiarities in the two party manifestos will be highlighted by the Conservatives as they try to negotiate a formal deal with the Liberal Democrats but they will be less keen to discuss the areas where there is an ocean of clear blue water between them. 

The areas where they do converge, however, include a number of economic issues such as plans to limit sector pay and to cut family tax credits.

In both cases there are slight differences in their approach. The Conservatives propose a one-year freeze for all but the one million lowest paid workers and the Lib Dems favour a £400 limit on pay rises for two years.

On tax credits, the Conservative plan to remove them from better off households, while the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto contains the vaguer pledge of restricting tax credits.

Read Siobhan Kennedy's take on Tory and Lib Dem economic policy

Both parties have a longstanding commitment to introduce a pupil premium. It is a key education pledge for the Liberal Democrats who propose £2.5bn of extra funding for headteachers to spend in the best interests of children. The Conservatives would use it to provide extra funding for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Another area of common ground is their position on a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would cancel plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

The Liberal Democrats also propose a halt to airport expansion elsewhere in the south east of England, while the Tories propose making Heathrow airport better, not bigger.

Several areas of policy overlap involve the parties’ commitment to cutting waste and bureaucracy, including in the NHS. The Tories say that NHS staff will be "properly accountable to patients for their performance", removing the need for expensive layers of bureaucracy. 

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems’ first priority for health is to increase spending in some parts of the NHS by cutting waste in others.

Neither party are fans of Labour’s plan to introduce ID cards. Both manifestos pledge to scrap the programme. The Tories would also get rid of the next generation of biometric passports, the National Identity Register and the Contactpoint database. The Liberal Democrats would use the money saved to pay for 3,000 more police on the beat.

Other areas of agreement include the two parties’ attitudes to quangos, which they regard as wasteful and undemocratic.  Both would streamline further and higher education quangos into a single body.

The Conservatives would abolish quangos that "do not perform a technical function or a function that requires political impartiality, or act independently to establish facts".

It would get rid of the Government Office for London and devolve more power downwards to the London boroughs and the mayor of London.

The Liberal Democrats would reform Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) to focus solely on economic development. Some RDAs would be scrapped altogether and their functions taken over by local authorities.

The two parties approach to cutting waste extends to Westminster. They both propose cutting the number of MPs with the Lib Dem manifesto outlining plans to shed 150 MPs from the Commons. The Tories are proposing a more modest reduction of 10 per cent – that equates to 65 MPs.

But political reform also provides the biggest stumbling block for a deal between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrat manifesto proposes abolishing the idea of 'safe seats' by introducing a proportional voting system for MPs.

Their preference is for the single transferable vote system, which gives people a choice between candidates as well as parties. There is no mention of electoral reform in the Conservative manifesto, although in his speech yesterday David Cameron conceded that an all party committee of inquiry should take place on the issue.

Another no go area for the Conservatives is the Liberal Democrats' "route to citizenship" for some illegal migrants. The Tories also favour an annual limit on the number of non-EU migrants rather than the regional suggested by the Liberal Democrats.

The Conservatives are also opposed to the Liberal Democrats' policy of ditching the like-for-like replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system, which could cost £100 billion. The Tories support the decision to renew Britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, based on the Trident missile system.

There are also disagreements on Europe and when to start cutting public spending. The two parties have a difference stance on Labour’s national insurance rise from 2011 with the Conservative manifesto proposing scrapping the policy and the Liberal Democrats arguing that it will be impossible to avoid the former government’s tax rises while the deficit is so huge.

So no wonder it's looking like we won't have a announcement on a deal until Monday at the earliest.  It looks like the negotiators and deal makers have a lot to discuss.

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