Things have come to a pretty pass when the Liberal Democrats are urging the Conservatives to cut taxes. But Nick Clegg has a point: the economic situation is dire, people are growing poorer and radical thinking is required. With Labour in the doldrums, Clegg has decided that the time has come to pick a fight with his Coalition partners. The Lib Dems are openly laying out their pre-Budget demands: taking those paid less than £10,000 out of tax altogether, and balancing this with yet another tax on the wicked rich. With the Tories five points ahead in the polls, Clegg thinks it is safe for his party to make a little noise.
George Osborne should be having similar thoughts. His old routine is now failing. The embarrassing truth is that, for all his talk about how you can’t borrow your way out of a debt crisis, he is now trying to do just that. Before the last election, fearful of Labour attacks, he adopted a deficit reduction plan that was only a slightly modified version of the one proposed by Gordon Brown. He dressed it up in the language of austerity, and still speaks in blood-curdling terms about the urgent need to confront the deficit – while borrowing more than even Labour planned. It has been a political success: just look at those opinion polls.