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Lib-Con relations are fracturing – in Eastleigh and elsewhere

By Peter Hoskin
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What larks in Eastleigh! As various Tory MPs have tweeted in identikit fashion, the Lib Dem candidate has today ‘fessed up to voting for 5,000 new homes to be built on previously undeveloped green space – and this despite campaign literature which warns that “countryside spaces between our towns and villages across the borough of Eastleigh are under new threat thanks to Hampshire Conservatives”. Grant Shapps puts it thus:

“The Lib Dems Eastleigh campaign is in turmoil. Their central promise to the people of Eastleigh is to protect the local area’s green spaces. But now their candidate has admitted that they will concrete over the countryside with their plans for 5,000 new houses on green field sites.

The Liberal Democrats cannot mislead the voters forever – they’ve been found out. Nick Clegg now needs to apologise for the Lib Dems’ totally inaccurate claims.”

And there’s another Lib Dem-related story that CCHQ has set about exploiting today: the Mail on Sunday splash about Team Clegg’s plans to extend wealth taxes into your jewellery box. According to the paper, the Lib Dem leadership is considering—alongside the introduction of a souped-up mansion tax—an idea to allow taxmen into people’s homes to value, and then slap levies across, assets such as necklaces and paintings. Admittedly, Vince Cable has since played down many elements of the story, but not before Tories across Twitter seized on it with alacrity and gratitude.

In truth, the Lib Dems’ general eagerness to tax wealth creates as much a conundrum for the Tory leadership as a target. Of course, it’s easy to strike out at any jewellery tax, but a stronger variety of mansion tax is a different matter altogether. As “one influential figure” suggests to James Forsyth, Labour's sympathy for such a levy could alter the balance of negotiations in the event of another hung parliament – meaning that “Cameron will have to fold and accept a mansion tax as the price of power.”

Myself, I think the Tories shouldn’t dismiss higher taxes on expensive properties out-of-hand – for reasons I've set out before. But this is hardly a possiblity that will cheer many party members.


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