Is Danny Alexander trying to stamp on a pesky motion?

On BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend today, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander was asked if he would “feel bound” by the decisions of his party’s conference. Under party rules, Lib Dem conference decisions are fed into the party’s manifesto.

His reply was pretty close to a no:

“What we’re doing is what the party agreed back in May, which is to deliver on that coalition agreement. So that’s what we have to do and that’s where I will take my source of authority from, if you like, and of course the party conference debates are important but they don’t necessarily make policy for the government”

While it’s understandable that Alexander wants to underline the importance of sticking to the coalition agreement in the face of Lib Dem jitters about getting into bed with the Tories, it may also be that he wants to head off attempts to enforce a tricky motion calling on the government to be more progressive in its cuts to public spending. It’s a motion whose wording he’s already intervened in, as I reported here last month.

The motion, which will be debated on Tuesday, calls on the coalition to:

“continue to work to ensure that the most vulnerable in society are not disproportionately affected by the government’s austerity measures and to ensure that the wealth and inequality gap does not widen.”

and to:

“Insist that Liberal Democrat ministers are given the freedom and resources to commission research to fully assess the viability and practicalities of increasing taxation on wealth – including land values.”

Some might argue that this contradicts George Osborne’s slashing of welfare budgets, and it seems unlikely that he would smile on plans to increase taxation on wealth beyond the still-in-place 50p top tax rate.

Alexander’s announcement of a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion also looks like a way of assuaging those who want to see more redistribution of wealth from the wealthy (e.g. billionaire non-doms) to the poor.


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