I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Nick Clegg has taken some risky and sometimes brave decisions as LibDem leader. He appeared to have shifted the party to a low tax, market based approach - away from the more social democratic approach of his two immediate predecessors. In fact, he seemed to be trying to move the Liberal Democrats back to being a truly liberal party - at least from an economic viewpoint.
But today's tax announcements leave me wondering. Having moved the party from being a party whose instincts were to put up taxes (remember a penny on income tax for education and the 50% rate for high earners), he then extolled the virtues of tax cuts. But his party were less than gruntled. And then at last year's conference Vince Cable's halo was severely tarnished when he announced a whole raft of measures which appeared very ill thought out. These included a Mansion Tax of 1% of the property's value on all properties worth in exess of £1 million. Susan Kramer and others were incandescent. After all, in her marginal seat there were thousands of people who owned houses in that bracket but who were not cash rich.
Today's tax announcements by Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have some superficial attractions about them as they cut taxes for many of the lower paid - something the Conservatives are committed to doing too. But their means of balancing the books will attract huge controversy. The Mansion Tax stays, albeit it will now only affect properties worth £2 million or more, but at 2%, rather than 1%. Will that placate Susan Kramer and other south west London MPs? In some ways, who cares, as it is clear that this policy is mired in LibDem politics rather than proper economics.
The cost of the LibDem tax cuts is £16.5 billion. The Mansion Tax will raise £1.7 bn. So where;s the rest coming from? They want to restrict tax relief on pension contributions to the basic rate (£4.7 bn). Capital Gains tax increases will bring in £4.1 bn. Taxes on aircraft and passengers will raise a further £2.1 bn, while a massive £4.67 bn is said to be raised through closing various tax loopholes.
For a party which wants to make " savage cuts" in public spending, you might imagine that their tax policies would be more radical than this.
Of coruse the fact of the matter is that the LibDems won't form the next government, so in some ways I don't know why I have spent so long discussing their tax plans, as it would take a political earthquake for them to be in a position to implement them.
Still, makes them feel wanted, doesn't it?