David Blackburn

How Hughes will play the coalition

How Hughes will play the coalition
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Simon Hughes is an experienced campaigner, whose reputation is deservedly blemished by a handful of duplicities – Peter Tatchell, denying a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the like. Hughes has just appeared on the Daily Politics and, very subtly, split the Lib Dems from the Tories.

It was very simple: the Tories are responsible for all that’s bad and the Liberal Democrats are benevolent. First, Hughes dissociated the Liberals from tax rises:

"I hope that the chancellor's hearing the voices that says VAT is not the right tax to change in the budget next week."

Contrast that with a coalition policy that is popular: reducing MPs pension entitlements. Naturally, Hughes presents Nick Clegg as the author of the policy:

"I'm quite clear that we will not be able to continue that regime and Nick [Clegg] has made that absolutely clear...it is unfair and unreasonable."

Clegg has said that, but so too has David Cameron - last summer. Hughes must protect the Lib Dems from the unpopularity of a necessarily austere government. To do so, he will tell half lies at any opportunity.