The Liberal Democrats are keen to use today to show that Coalition works, but Lord Oakeshott is in a less charitable mood. I’ve just had a chat with him about George Osborne’s explicit rejection of the mansion tax in his statement today as ‘intrusive’. The former Lib Dem Treasury spokesman in the House of Lords says:
‘I’m not withdrawing anything I have said about the Tories and the mansion tax. Intrusive is exactly what taxes on high-end tax dodgers have to be. George Osborne has performed a screeching handbrake turn on Tory donors’ orders.’
Nick Clegg’s aides have been trying to labour the proalition point in their briefings , though. A source close to the Lib Dem leader said this afternoon that this was ‘another example of the two parties working together, taking difficult decisions to fix the economy’.
They are even trying to steer away from gloating too much over the rise in the personal tax allowance, which is generous of them. When I asked whether the Lib Dems could say that the policy wouldn’t have made it into the statement, or indeed the budget, without them in government, the source said the party was proud of the decision, especially as they had it in their manifesto, but didn’t try to claim ownership of the policy. I suspect the party will at some point try to argue to its grassroots that this policy would never have seen the light of day without Clegg’s involvement.
But Lib Dem HQ is in the doghouse for failing to toe this proalition line. A briefing sent out from the party press office said:
‘The only tax cuts the Conservatives support are ones for the very rich. At the General Election, their priority was to cut inheritance tax for millionaires. In the Coalition, Liberal Democrats have blocked these plans and instead we are cutting taxes for millions.’
Whoops! Clegg’s people weren’t fans of that, saying: ‘I think that’s something HQ have sent out in error… The Conservatives have fully embraced the Lib Dem policy of tax cuts.’ The source said a revised briefing note would be on its way.