I still can’t get my head around the sight of Lib Dems wandering around the Treasury as if they run the place; which – of course – they now do. Vince Cable, sat in front of scores of journalists and senior civil servants, also seemed slightly bewildered at finding himself on podium with David Cameron, Theresa May and George Osborne.
The document is 33 pages long and can be found here. (It is branded as The Coalition - presumably a cross between the blue and yellow of the two parties). Drawn up by Oliver Letwin and Danny Alexander and produced in just 9 days, compared to 40 or 80 for some European coalitions, it is a seamless blend of co-operation, fudge, compromise and genuinely shared policy.
“Not an effortless fusion,” as Cameron himself admitted. But he added: “Nick and I agree on the new policies…we’re all going to have to get used to a new world.”
For those with less time on their hands here are 10 of the points which jumped out at me: some are new, others are old but have been clarified.
1] “The deficit reduction programme takes precedence over any of the other measures in this agreement.” The document promises to “significantly accelerate the reduction of the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament”. The plan is still to do this more by cuts than by higher taxes.
2] A possible tax rise. The threshold at which first time buyers started paying stamp duty was lifted to £250,000 in the (Labour) Budget this April. The Tory policy had been to keep this permanently. But the booklet says: “We will review the effectiveness of the raising of the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers”.
3] Some of the most sensitive measures will not be whipped. The Lib Dems will be allowed to oppose a vote on fox hunting, the nuclear power National Planning Statement, a new tax break for married couples. They will also be allowed to campaign for the alternative vote while the Tories will be allowed to campaign against.
4] The National Audit Office will be allowed “full access” to the accounts of the BBC; look out highly-paid celebrities, your remuneration package is now public property.
5] Some strict targets for backroom cuts; 25 per cent for the Ministry of Defence running costs, 33 per cent for NHS administration.
6] The coalition will not only cancel the Heathrow third runway but also additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
7] Old people are still being treated gently. Winter fuel allowance, free TV licences, free bus travel, and free eye tests all protected.
8] What has happened to the non-dom levy? The Tories had planned to charge £25,000 a year to non-domiciled residents. However – as Cathy Newman has explained – there were doubts about the Tory sums. Now it’s under review.
9] The coalition wants to inject private capital into the Royal Mail, as Vince Cable told the FT a week ago. (It’s also on the Guardian’s front page today). Prepare for a fight with the Communication Workers Union; although Vince told us that legislation would not be rushed through prematurely.
10] Political reform will include a referendum on the Alternative Vote and proposals for Lords reform. More curiously, money will be made available for parties to hold postal primaries to inject fresh blood into seats which have been bed-blocked for decades. The model for this was Totnes, where a female GP has replaced Anthony Steen after a ballot of all locals – ie not just Tory supporters.