The Deputy PM vowed in his conference speech that the Lib Dems "will keep this government green" - and he meant it.
The balance of credit for getting the Tories even this far has clearly tilted towards the Chancellor.
The cap is less a serious act of policy than a political weapon designed to trap Labour on the wrong side of the argument and to demonise the unemployed.
The smaller the deficit becomes, the harder it will be for the Conservatives to make it the defining economic issue. Labour can continue to shift the debate to living standards.
Contrary to the media scare stories, the actual cost of "health tourism" is estimated at £70m, just 0.06% of the NHS's annual budget.
As long as the Tories are directing their fire at UKIP and trying to attract their core vote back, they will continue to remind everyone that they are the nasty party.
While restricting current spending, the party should promise to invest the proceeds of growth into future-facing areas like skills, childcare and infrastructure.
In its determination not to refer to the "bedroom tax", the party mistakenly claims that Labour is "opposed" to the "spare room subsidy".
Falling real wages and inflation-busting price rises mean that having a job is no longer a secure route to escaping poverty in the capital.
The coalition's reductive focus on numbers and ever-tighter restrictions will not create the fair and effective migration system that it says it wants.