James Forsyth

Clegg has one great policy but he doesn’t know how to sell it

Clegg has one great policy but he doesn't know how to sell it
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Nick Clegg has one policy that he should be talking about at every opportunity, his plan to make everyone’s first ten thousand pounds of income tax free. It is a radical idea that would lift millions of people out of tax altogether and be a massive step towards making work pay. As one Tory candidate fighting a marginal seat said to me this week, ‘I wish we had something like that to offer people.’

But as Clegg’s appearance on Andrew Marr this morning showed, Clegg doesn’t know how to sell his policy. Rather than emphasising the first ten thousand point, he mainly talked about his plans for a mansion tax and removing the tax breaks on pensions contributions for upper earners. These are the unappealing aspects of the policy and not particularly distinctive given what Labour is already doing in this area.

Clegg didn’t have a particularly good time this morning. He got into a muddle about the idea of region-specific work permits for immigrants. Then, at the end of the interview he got bogged down as he tried to dance away from the question of whether pr was a precondition of any post-election deal with one of the major parties.

There was also a comic moment at the end of the show. Clegg, Kevin Maguire, Carol Vorderman were talking about Haiti with Andrew Marr. Clegg was saying how great it was to see how much the British people had given already, when Maguire asked him if he had donated. After a second’s pause, Clegg replied that he was going to donate later today.