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26 January 2012

Clear Yellow Water

Why today is the best day since May 2010 to be a Lib Dem.

By Richard Morris

I’d be the first to admit that it’s not the best catch phrase ever invented. It may be the worst. But clear yellow water is what the party grass roots has been begging for ever since we entered government. And it’s a lot better than the sentiment of “not a cigarette paper between us” that we all so disliked for the first 12 months of coalition government.

And while there have been tentative steps in that direction for a while, today it’s been delivered. The Lib Dems find themselves standing on the high ground of tax reform for the lowest paid and middle income families. Today is the best day since May 2010 to be a Lib Dem.

Nick Clegg’s speech today is being painted as a gamble. “If Osborne says no, Clegg looks impotent”, goes the mantra. That’s simply not right. If Osborne says no, the Tories look like right wing zealots hammering the poor while letting their mates in the City get away with millions in bonuses. Go on George, I dare you…

However, I wonder who has the real political problem today?

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It is something of a paradox that we have ended up differentiating ourselves from the Tories by advocating tax cuts that they are not keen on. The irony of a Conservative chancellor not acquiescing to a request to cut taxes will not be lost on the electorate.

But surely more ironic is the lengths Labour have gone to in the last ten days to demonstrate fiscal prudence — the iron fist keeping the cuts, freezing the pay for the public sector — only to see the Lib Dems step into the void they have left and champion the poor. Oh Mr Miliband, where to now? Are you going to say these tax cuts would be too far and too fast?

Before you know it we’ll be ditching the second worst political catch phrase ever invented (“Alarm Clock Britain” — give it up, Nick) and start talking about the squeezed middle…

While the Tories now have a short term political quandary to solve, it’s Labour who find themselves standing in a great pool of clear yellow water.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference