Lib Dem’s warning on the coalition

Attempts by the coalition parties to differentiate themselves from each other must not be allowed to become “contagious and damaging”, a former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister warned last night.

David Laws acknowledged that some differentiation between the Tories and Lib Dems was “fine, helpful even”, but added: “It must be constructive differentiation, and not lead to policy paralysis.”

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The MP, who resigned as the coalition’s Chief Secretary to the Treasury after 17 days but remains close to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, insisted that the coalition would last the full five-year parliament. But he acknowledged relations between the parties had been “slightly more scratchy” in the past year.

Policy differences over issues such as the NHS, welfare and Europe have become more pronounced and much of the negotiations over next week’s Budget have been made public.

Mr Laws said differentiation between the parties – so that voters are aware of what each of them stands for within the UK government – could strengthen the coalition and ensure it lasts longer.