Some people believe the very rich should pay more tax.
Nick Clegg believes the top 1% should be invited to make an emergency "time limited contribution". Some politicians can tell you in a few words why they scorn the Conservatives. Mr Clegg requires a long and delicate procedure – possibly surgical – called "differentiation" to help us remember who he used to be.
For Liberal Democrats, such is the nutshell and those are the problems. Mr Clegg entered government in 2010, so he said, to save the country from economic peril. Clearly, if suddenly an emergency wealth tax is required, the moment of national salvation has been delayed. Again.
Recession has returned, worse than before. The economic slump has surpassed all records. A vaunted deficit reduction "strategy" is producing the opposite effect of the one desired and promised. For Mr Clegg to rediscover a LibDem belief in the responsibilities of wealth at this stage in the game looks like a feeble attempt to deflect blame. The Tories won't accept the tax, in any case, and Mr Clegg knows as much. So how is it daring to embrace a fantasy policy?
Mr Clegg made his pact with David Cameron, meanwhile, with the promise that he and his band of LibDem stalwarts would act as a restraining influence on feral Tories. "Fairness" would be the partnership's watchword. But not, as it turned out, amid profoundly unfair welfare cuts, or during English NHS carnage. Not, for that matter, while George Osborne reduced higher rate taxes and Tax-the-Rich Nick said not a word.
So "differentiation" is required. In Mr Clegg's world there is an abundance of voters who still haven't noticed that any differences between the LibDems and the Tories are so slight as to make no difference. In reality, by one count, there are 1.6 million fewer people prepared to support Mr Clegg's party now than there were at the last General Election. Common sense, like the old pop song, says they won't get fooled again.
With their autumn conference due at the end of the month, Liberal Democrats are having to deal with actually existing reality. For some of them, this is a novelty. For MPs, it is an unpleasant sort of novelty. They saw what happened during the Holyrood elections. This week, their worst fears were confirmed by a YouGov analysis containing many fascinating nuances and one brutal, overwhelming truth.
Simply this: if Mr Clegg can't get the party's poll ratings above their current 10% average, slaughter awaits. Of 57 Westminster seats, 47 will be lost. All the progress made since Paddy Ashdown became leader in 1988 will be forfeit thanks to the "historic achievement" of ministerial rank by Mr Clegg and his allies. Even if LibDem ratings climb as high as 15% – and chance would be a fine thing – 29 seats would go. To rub the salt where it hurts most, the majority of those scalps would be claimed by the Tories. Some wishful thinking would be blown away by that storm. First would be the fond belief among certain LibDems that they could simply change partners and resume the dance in Labour's arms. Even if Ed Miliband would stoop to that, many voters would despise the sheer cynicism of it all. The spectacle of the LibDems again touting themselves "for the country's sake" would stick in a lot of craws. That kind of truth is too easily forgotten by the self-involved Westminster village.
One by one, Mr Clegg's escape routes are disappearing. Even those prepared to grit their teeth and be "realistic" would be voting in Tory-Liberal marginals where a pact with Labour would make no odds. Taking revenge on David Cameron by blocking boundary changes after the failure of Lords reform begins to look utterly irrelevant. And no-one now believes that a recovering economy will rescue the party that allowed, encouraged and enabled the Osborne debacle.
Mr Clegg has to go. Any dispassionate, non-aligned voter who can summon even an academic interest in the future of Westminster's third party can see as much. If LibDem activists and MPs are interested in survival – they may soon be the only people left to care – the leader has to be replaced without delay. Mr Clegg is toxic, the living symbol of failure and betrayal. Any belief that he can be rehabilitated, any patronising idea that voters will "get over it", should be discarded.
You know how bad things have become for Mr Clegg when Mr Ashdown is forced to attempt one of his who-dares-wins hostage rescue missions. Writing in a London newspaper, the former leader recommends a stiff upper lip and a damn-the-torpedoes attitude towards the facts.
"We will be judged at the next election," he writes, "by one fact and one fact only. Whether we have had the mettle to stay the course in delivering effective government for our country at a time of crisis. That is the only thing that matters. All the rest is the froth."
Mr Clegg will drown in that froth before long. The simple fact is the Coalition on which he has pinned all hope is not "delivering effective government" amid a crisis. So why shouldn't he pay a price? Why shouldn't Lord Oakeshott (friend to Vince Cable) suggest that Mr Clegg should be replaced by a certain Vince Cable (friend to Lord Oakeshott)? For the LibDems, it's the last chance, and a slim one.
After all, it depends on the rest of us forgetting that Dr Cable has spent his time in government carrying through precisely the policies he opposed while campaigning for election. Dr Cable it was who warned us that Mr Osborne's strategy would have catastrophic results. Dr Cable it is, with that air of immense self-satisfaction, who alternately defends the strategy or hints that he would – of course – manage things far better.
Dr Cable remains popular, for all that. In comparison with Mr Clegg, that's no great achievement, but the aura of Vince might last just long enough to see the LibDems through an election campaign. He might even make a pact with Labour seem plausible, if not forgivable. But the man who didn't quite reform the banks, despite all rhetoric, represents the final LibDem hope.
Objectively, they deserve no such thing. Decades spent proclaiming that a party nominating itself as "the alternative" had some sort of moral right to power have been given the lie.
The real lesson of coalition government is that Westminster is better off without opportunistic coalition governments. On the evidence offered by the LibDems, there is no principle that the junior partner will refuse to sacrifice.
The phenomenon deserves a single, simple observation: that's not why people vote, in optimism or despair. In the end, invincible pragmatism is an insult.
Mr Clegg has achieved nothing of importance in the name of what he still calls progressive politics. He has given his name to calamitous economic policies. He has identified himself with everything he campaigned against in 2010. Even in a ramshackle democracy dominated by masters of expediency and self-interest, there is something very wrong about that.
What makes it worse is that the LibDems probably lack the courage to dump Mr Clegg. That would be an admission of complicity, and of guilt. Instead, they will go on hoping for the best. The rest of us, English voters in particular, have no such luxury.
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