Over your dead body, Danny? Then it could be that the 40p tax rate kills you off

If the Tories make gains in 2015, Alexander and co will be in no position to negotiate

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The Independent Online

“Over my dead body” is probably a phrase politicians should avoid, for obvious reasons. It particularly should apply to Liberal Democrat politicians, such as Danny Alexander, and even more so where detailed matters of taxation policy are concerned. The party is bound to have to compromise with its bigger counterparts; and tax rates are also a matter of revenue raising and practicality.

Now, when the next election comes round it may well be the case that we have a Lib Dem-Con coalition again, but the dynamics even more skewed towards the Conservatives. In 2015, compared to 2010, there will be no Cleggmania or its equivalent; their popular vote will be down; their seats denuded, though by less than many assume. The Tories may make some gains – ironically enough at the Lib Dems’; expense. In a new coalition the balance of power will tip to the right. Therefore the Tories will have an even bigger say in policy making, and one of their priorities will be a return to the 40p rate of income tax that, as they keep telling us, was maintained during Labour’s s term in office. The Lib Dems could not reasonably refuse it; and a U-turn and the dead body of Mr Alexander can clearly be glimpsed in the political middle distance.

It is no matter of principle. As it happens the lib Dem 2010 manifesto didn’t say anything about the top rate of tax; and pragmatists such as Vince Cable as Treasury spokesman always a made it clear it was not  matter of ideology. How could it be? The party constitution states they are in business to “foster a strong and sustainable economy which encourages the necessary wealth creating processes, develops and uses the skills of the people and works to the benefit of all, with a just distribution of the rewards of success”. I think George Osborne could go along with that.

There is a very unfortunate precedent for Danny’s “dead body” deathwish. Though he dint so far as I know actually use the exact phrase, Nick Clegg and his team, or most of them, gave every impression that they would willingly sacrifice life itself before agreeing to increases in tuition fees. And yet we know what happened when such phrasemaking met poetical reality; poor old Vince Cable himself pushed the legislation thought the Commons, a remarkable feat of agility and parliamentary mastery. For some reason his reputation never suffered as badly as Mr Clegg’s; but that’s another story.