‘I know a few people who could arrange just that,’ remarked a Tory MP this morning on reading Danny Alexander’s remarks in the Mirror that the Conservatives would reduce the top rate of tax to 40p ‘over my dead body’. He told the newspaper:
‘The top rate of tax has been an issue of late. Labour wants to take it back up to 50p, I think the 45p rate is the right place to be. I wouldn’t go to cutting below 45p – that would happen over my dead body. It’s better to say we are going to stick where we are.’
It’s worth pointing out that Alexander only means over his dead body in this Parliament. A source close to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury tells me: ‘What he’s saying is over my dead body in this Parliament. He’s very explicit in the language he uses.’ There is a clear reluctance to make tax cuts a red line for a post 2015 coalition.
But clearly this interview is part of the Lib Dem strategy to pull apart from the Conservatives, and Alexander’s own strategy to remind everyone that he is a Lib Dem after colleagues have long suspected him of ‘going native’ at the Treasury. He has beefed up his team recently and is putting himself out there more often in op-eds and interviews. One thing he’s very keen to emphasise is that the recovery has a Lib Dem DNA, arguing in today’s interview that ‘we must get our fair share of credit for the economic recovery’ and the ‘economic plan is not a Tory plan, it’s a Coalition plan. There’s as much Lib Dem thinking as Tory thinking.’