Voluble Liberal Democrats win three more concessions from the Conservatives
By Tim Montgomerie
From a very good starting point (I wrote about Nick Clegg's good side last night), the Leftwards drift of the Coalition continues, confirming 'Montgomerie's Law'. Nick Clegg has been given three helpings of LibDemmery to reassure his party conference that the Coalition has yellow as well as blue running through its veins.
The biggest concession was announced yesterday by Danny Alexander. It leads this morning's Daily Mail. A massive crackdown on tax evasion (or is it "avoidance" - there's been a casualness with language). The Adam Smith Institute is worried:
"There is one way to prevent people exploiting loopholes and paying less tax by employing expensive lawyers and accountants to shuffle their money around. That is to make taxes so low and so simple that there is no point and no chance of doing so. A tax system where it is obvious what people are expected to pay. We need a flat tax, and we need it now."
A flat tax is too much to hope for but simpler taxation is the answer rather than a new army of "bully boy" inspectors. And before people accuse me of being tough on welfare claimants but relaxed about tax dodgers I also believe that a simpler welfare system is the principal solution to benefits fraud.
Votes for prisoners. This has long been a Liberal Democrat demand but was described by Tory Attorney General Dominic Grieve as "ludicrous". Today's Times (£) says Nick Clegg has the green light to add felons to the electoral franchise. Philip Johnston at The Telegraph blogs that it will be important that distinctions are made between different types of prisoners:
"If someone goes to jail for a political cause – eg refusing to pay council tax – should they then be denied a voice in the political process. On the other hand, the idea that some of our worst criminals – murderers and rapists – will be given the privilege of taking part in the democratic process will anger many people."
Trident delay. It seems likely that Trident renewal will be delayed in some way. Iain Martin at the Wall Street Journal speculates that Defence Secretary Liam Fox might not mind:
"Why? It makes the defense review, already requiring massive cuts, that bit more manageable. To fellow Tory MPs on the right he can say that it eases pressure on other services in this SDR. Delaying involves a cost of around £750 million between now and 2015, for various bits of research and contracts, but it’s nothing like the bigger commitments involved in beginning full renewal in the next few years. So delay gives more room to protect other areas that Tory MPs care about, such as army numbers."