As much as it amuses me to watch Simon Hughes squirm as Paxman points out his potential tuition fees U-turn and the upset it is causing in his party, I do feel some sympathy. I am getting rather bored with a familiar whine from apparently intelligent political editors, newsreaders and commentators.
What whine you ask? Well, you didn't but I shall tell you anyway: trotting out the "this wasn't in your manifesto so why are you doing it now" or the more blatant "you lied to us, shouldn't you say sorry?"
The problem is that people will start to compare these so called U-turns to the many committed by the previous Government. Making that confusion suggests the last and present Governments were in the same position of power to be able to act on their pledges - something a fair way wide of the mark. Unfortunately, that misses two rather huge points:
1. The manifestos of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were based on what they would do if they won a single party majority in the House (although a cynical commentator might suggest the latter manifesto was filled with vote-buying loveliness safe in the knowledge they'd never have to make the sums actually add up).
2. The only party with a definite idea of the state of the nation's finances is always the governing party.
So let us not pick on every point where Government policy differs from manifesto pledges. Firstly there always has to be a bit of latitude should the finances be as parlous as they turned out to be once the incoming Government get a real look at the books. Secondly, and more importantly, in a coalition there will have to be compromise on policy (or they'd be the same party). This will inevitably lead to one or both parties having to do something not in their manifesto, or go back on something that was in it. The parties in a hung Parliament have a mandate to form a coalition and govern in the national interest (Dave's new favourite phrase). They don't need to go back to the polls and ask if John Q. Taxpayer would mind if they changed a few things to make a coalition viable, so let's not pretend at every opportunity that they do.