By Ray Fleming

THREE things stood out from yesterday afternoon's joint press conference by David Cameron and Nick Clegg. The first was that the Liberal Democrats have reneged on their previous policy on the single most important issue facing Britain -- when serious cutting of the economy to reduce the deficit should begin. During the election Mr Clegg took the same view as Labour (and many independent voices) that the cuts should not be introduced until 2011 because to do so sooner would risk halting or reversing growth in the economy. Yesterday, however, he put his name to the Conservatives manifesto commitment to act as soon as possible -- although there were some weasel words about “consultation with the Treasury and the Bank of England” (I should hope so!). The second point was on Europe. When Mr Cameron was asked how the coalition would work together on Europe, he replied, “We have set out our differences” and Mr Clegg did not add to that. They are dysfunctionally poles apart.

The third item came out of questions on whether the coalition partners would continue to fight against each other at elections. The answer was yes and the first instance will be at the delayed Thirsk and Malton contest on 27 May when Conservative and Liberal Democrat candidates will stand. Mr Clegg said he hoped that such a situation would “become unsurprising relatively quickly”. If he really believes that he can believe that anything is possible in coalition politics -- which it ain't.