The two conflicting wings of the Liberal Democrats are perhaps embodied by Simon Hughes
and David Laws. Their political and strategic differences have surfaced in this morning’s Observer, where Hughes gives an "http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/17/simon-hughes-liberal-democrats-interview">interview to say that the Liberal Democrats have to rein in the “ruthless” Tories, and
David Laws argues in an op-ed that the “Liberal Democrats must not serve as this
government’s brake, but its engine.”
That tension needn’t be destructive. As Lord Rennard wrote yesterday the Lib Dem’s
long-term strategy is to prove that coalitions work and the junior partner can be both a driving and tempering force on the senior partner. Laws, for example, writes that the Lib Dems’
achievements include “amending the NHS bill and protecting the schools budget”. The thrust of Hughes’ idea is therefore central to the party’s overall strategy. Its
fundamental assumption is that the Tories are, as Hughes puts it, “the bastards”. Whether this uneasy scheme will work is another matter, especially as the Lib Dems have copulated with
“the bastards” and appear to have liked it.
Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat ministers are keen to assert themselves. Danny Alexander has today announced the creation of an “
"http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/35596/danny_alexander_extra_tax_inspectors_the_next_stage_of_plan_to_deal_with_avoidance_and_evasion.html">affluence team” (a force of 2,000 tax
collectors) to clamp down on tax avoidance, while Vince Cable has declared another private war over
high pay (£); the business secretary wants to empower shareholders to challenge directors who award themselves huge pay rises despite negligible improvements in company performance.
The proposals indicate that the tax debate is burgeoning, perhaps also suggesting that the government is preparing to announce a politically awkward cut in the top rate of income tax by
introducing measures to collect more tax and limit avarice. On the other hand, this may simply be an instance of the Lib Dems spinning some crude yarn for the party faithful.
Alexander’s use of the word “affluent”, rather than a more obviously negative and specific term like avoidance or evasion, implies that his plan is designed to titillate the