The only mention that the Liberal Democrats received in David Cameron’s speech was a reference to the fact that they, unlike the Tories, had not been committed to real-terms increases in the NHS budget. Combine this with the fact that the speech saw Cameron pit the Tory view of the world against Labour’s and one could see an attempt to write the Liberal Democrats out of the script.

The absence of the Liberal Democrats from the speech was, I’m informed, quite deliberate. Cameron’s implicit message was that the really big things the coalition is doing — education and welfare reform and the structural changes to the economy — are Conservative things.

In 2015, the choice between Labour and the Conservatives will be stark. The question for the Liberal Democrats is whether, as Alex says, this leaves them on the sidelines or whether the distance between the two main parties gives them space to operate in.

Tags: Coalition, Conservative conference 2012, Conservatives, David Cameron, Liberal Democrats, UK politics