The Sketch: Namers and shamers eventually round on the tax evaders

Tim Farron delivered a superb speech full of cheek, ferocity – and abuse of the Tories
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The Independent Online

They're always on at us to get involved in politics and as soon as we join in they try to arrest us. Danny Alexander had hardly begun, someone shouted "Rubbish!" and security – possibly armed with sub-machine guns now that they're in government – started circling. Oh, what power does to us.

Danny was giving it to them in the old-fashioned way. National interest. To get things right. Downgrades. Unsustainable. Shame. Every working family in Britain. Two billion more. The usual. But then he got on to his theme – a novel one for the party of tolerance and human rights.

"The enemies of growth! We will name them and shame those that get in the way!" And who were these wretches? "Isolationists and the Scottish National Party!" Baying rage. "Inadequate broadband!" Howls of execration. "Bureaucracy!" Confused mutterings – weren't most of them public-sector bureaucrats? Were they their own enemy suddenly?

But then the real villains were identified. The 350,000 taxpayers who weren't paying half their income to the state. "We will find you and your money and you will pay your fair share!"

Wow, hunt them down, take their money away and hang their reputation from gibbets. A "shared national purpose" to name and shame tax evaders. When you see people screaming at Big Brother evictions – yes, it could catch on.

Hugh Grant – what a charming man he is – addressed the Hacked-Off fringe meeting. He said there was a bad press parasitic in the good press; he argued for press regulation and that it needn't throw the baby out with the bath water. "Most sane people can distinguish bath water from baby. In fact, I'd say the baby is old enough to get out of the bath. To good journalists I'd say: 'Get out of the fucking bath!' and then drain the bath water into the North Sea."

Not sure that party president Tim Farron is pitch-perfect on the "poisonous" allegations of a secret gay life. It's not as if he's Norman Tebbit in the first Thatcher government. The appropriate response from a Lib Dem would have been: "The assertion that I have been exploring the diversity of my natural sexual spectrum is incorrect."

But he delivered a superb rallying speech full of cheek, ferocity, leaderliness, loyalty and abuse of the Tories. His big promise in this marriage was "divorce within three or four years". He got a completely voluntary standing ovation for it.