Those ‘cross-party talks’ over social care haven’t started quite yet, but
the positioning has already begun in earnest. In response to a
letter by a gaggle of experts in today’s Telegraph — which urges politicians to ‘seize this opportunity for urgent, fundamental and lasting reform’ — both David Cameron
and Andy Burnham have tried to sound utterly reasonable and mutually accommodating. The word
‘constructive’ is being deployed generously by all sides.
In his interview with the Today Programme, however, Burnham did also hint at what’s likely to be the main area of
contention. ‘Councils right now have been given brutal cuts to adult social care budgets,’ he observed, ‘and it’s my responsibility, too, to point that out because the government
has to realise the pressure that councils are under if we’re to get a sustainable solution here.’ He might as well have said it in three (familiar) words: investment versus cuts.
So far as the politics of the situation go, much depends, as I said last week, on
how the Lib Dems place themselves across that divide. They’ve been relatively quiet on the matter so far, particularly given the prominence it enjoyed in their manifesto. But when they do speak, it
could be that social care — along with Lords reform and Europe — is an area where they can scratch out common cause with Labour.