There has not been a lot of point in writing about the Lib Dems and Mr Clegg. Since the Clegg and Huhne race ended, a tired Mr Clegg, who had been slowing throughout the Leadership campaign, has had an even worse period as Leader. Occasionally, he comes up gasping for the air of publicity by stating something over the top, or self serving, only to disappear breathless.
It was typical to see that some Lib Dem source recently informed a press report that they would wish to support a Conservative government in office. I understand that Nick Clegg’s office has denied this is the position. This was said around the time the polls told him his party was in a poor third-placed position at Crewe, and around the time of the May 1st Council results, where the Conservatives had performed strongly. Someone must hope that showing sympathy for the newly popular Conservatives would lead to some of the stardust rubbing off.
It is a bizarre thing to say strategically. It would tell everyone that even the Leader of the Lib Dems does not think they have a prayer of doing well in a General Election. It would show Lib Dems have no principles, because he and his colleagues have spent much of the last few years in the Commons criticising just about everything the Conservatives say and do. It would be odd to pledge to support Conservative budgets before we are in a position to work out what those budgets might look like after 2010.
Today, we are asked to believe that, by some extraordinary metamorphosis, the Lib Dems are a party of lower taxation! They do not know how to spell it, let alone back it or implement it in local government, where they still control a few Councils.
They claim they would like to cut Income Tax to 16p in the pound, but only to accommodate a local income tax which would take it straight back to 20p in the pound, or higher. Meanwhile, many other new and higher taxes would be needed to replace the lost revenue from the fall in national income tax.
I will believe the Lib Dems support lower taxes, only if and when their Councils do what Hammersmith and Fulham, a Conservative-controlled Council, are doing â€“ cutting Council Tax one year after another as a result of better control over spending. If I heard their spokesmen on radio and TV arguing for less public spending, I would be more inclined to think the leopard was changing its spots. I usually hear them supporting higher spending on all manner of causes, good and bad.
All the Lib Dems’ â€œconversionsâ€ to lower taxes tells you is that it now polls well. I am delighted to learn that all three main parties now want lower taxes. For Labour, we have seen they cannot deliver â€“ those on lower incomes have to pay for the tax reductions for the rest through the abolition of the 10p band. Motorists, too, have to pay to allow a headline-catching income tax rate reduction. For the Lib Dems, by the admission of their own briefers who want to spell out which main party they would support, they do not expect to be able to form a government, so they can make foolish tax promises without ever being tested.