The Sketch: Honesty and trust are the freshest ingredients on a tired menu

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The Independent Online

It is the Lib Dem moment! Blimey, moments don't last long, do they?

Amid all the talk of honesty and trust, it's possible – and I only say so because I'm an optimist – that the party's anti-Tory line is a lie. If their attacks are concealing an unofficial election pact they might just put Labour into third place. Just think, Harriet Harman would be leading a tiny Labour party from below the gangway, without a despatch box to tap her spectacles on. Surely that's something one would sacrifice a little integrity for?

Yesterday it was Fresh! The pre-Manifesto debate.

There was a characteristically Lib Dem amendment at the front of the debate. They were amending their pre-manifesto to say nothing had changed, no decisions had been taken.

It's because leader Clegg has said they can't afford to abolish tuition fees. The party's (elected) policy committee however has the last word on this – and their amendment rubs their leader's face in this fact. It was an odd fight for Clegg to pick, considering that he lost it. But there's always the manifesto.

So, will tuition fees be abolished or not? "It's wrong to pigeonhole answers on such questions," one colleague suggested. "Yes and No are such arbitrary conceptual constructs," said another. "Rat now, or rat later?" a third summed it up.

They do agree on one thing: the need to be honest and open with the electorate, treat us like adults. And so saying Danny Alexander let loose a stream of childishness that made me feel 800 years old.

The Lib Dems are "the only party being honest", the other two parties suffer from "a sheer absence of values". They "don't know what they believe".

I do wish they'd all stop saying these things. It's just annoying.

Their pre-Manifesto is offering things that people will like – a lot of it offered by the other parties (they pool their focus group research). But they say they will break up the biggest banks – I don't think anyone else is saying that. They are also offering a voting system that abolishes the possibility of a safe seat. That's some voting system. Perhaps they'll let us know when it has been designed.

Oh, and they won't be able to break up the banks. When Danny says they will "put an end to bankers' bonuses" it must be considered as a line of symbolist poetry because it bears no relation to anything existing.

Michael Oakeshott distinguished himself with quite a damaging attack on George Osborne. He repeated City gossip that Osborne didn't know the difference between a bank and an insurance company, came to meetings unbriefed and that people were calling him a "work experience chancellor". And, "He was so far behind the curve on Northern Rock, we lapped him." Cheers, laughter, applause for their newest and most important allies.

simoncarr@sketch.sc

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