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By Peter Hoskin
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If
you believe that David Cameron’s likeliest route back to No.10 in 2015 is
another coalition with the Lib Dems, then then the past fortnight may have been
rather perturbing.

Reason
being, there are increasing signs of unity between Labour and the Lib Dems. Of
course, the two parties appear to be split—between a 10p tax rate and raising
the personal allowance—on the best way of lightening the tax burden on
low-income workers. But, apart from that, they have basically coalesced in
their response to Oliver Letwin’s Royal Charter for press regulation and in
their demands for a mansion tax.

And
Labour are even trying to smoke out Lib Dem support for their mansion tax
proposal with an Opposition Day debate in the Commons, or perhaps even—as the
Spectator’s Isabel Hardman reports—an
amendment to the Financial Bill after the Budget. This crude politicking has
left Vince Cable, for one, cooing
and flirting
. He won’t be the only Lib Dem who feels some attraction
towards Labour at the moment.


But
there remains a major impediment to any LibLab love-in: the Liberal Democrat
leader, Nick Clegg. Even though relations between Mr Clegg and Ed Miliband are said
to have thawed
recently, it’s still true that—as I’ve suggested
before
—he is a more natural bedfellow for the Tories than for Labour. And
he went some way towards proving it again today, during his weekly appearance on
LBC radio. His caustic remarks about Labour (and their mansion tax plans) were
not unusual for him, but they’re noteworthy in this current atmosphere. Here
they are:

“Labour’s
playing games. We’ve been waiting two years for Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to
come up with some ideas of their own on the economy, and indeed to apologise to
the British people for the mess they created. And suddenly, out of the blue,
they indulge in a bit of blatant plagiarism … no ideas of their own, and still
no expression of expression of remorse about what they’ve done wrong.

In
addition, they’ve linked their sudden, Johnny-come-lately conversion to the
cause of a mansion tax to the introduction of a 10p tax rate … remember that’s
the one that Gordon Brown, and indeed Ed Balls and Ed Miliband, abolished in
the first place. We, of course, are doing much better than that. We’re
delivering a 0p rate by raising the point at which you pay income tax, which is
our flagship tax policy which we’re actually delivering to people.

To
be honest, Labour is game-playing. I’ve no idea what they want to do in
Parliament … I think it just makes them look bereft of their own ideas, and I
still think they haven’t got that they are responsible for … Remember, it was
Ed Balls who went on the prawn cocktail charm offensive to the City of London,
sucking up to the banks, letting them get away with blue murder, which created
the problems—or much of the problems—in the first place.

Until
they acknowledge their responsibility for what they did wrong, I just don’t
think that people are going to take very seriously their game-playing on a
policy here and there – much of which appears not to be their own ideas in the
first place.”

This,
generally, is why I wouldn’t advise Tories to follow Boris’s
lead
in saying that Mr Clegg’s “single contribution to politics has been to
do a U-turn on tuition fees and make a song about it” – which is what the Mayor
of London did in Eastleigh today. I know, I know: that’s a by-election, where blows
will be struck below the belt, and Boris probably wasn’t being entirely serious
anyway. But, y’know, Clegg could one day be all there is in the way of Ed
Miliband and Vince Cable governing the country.

Besides,
wasn’t it the Mayor of London who recently implored us to “save
the Cleggster”
?

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