James Forsyth

Huhne ramps up the rhetoric on 50p

Huhne ramps up the rhetoric on 50p
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Chris Huhne’s comments to Prospect magazine about the 50p tax rate are typically provocative. The millionaire, former City boy accuses the Tories of wanting to abolish the 50p tax rate to help ‘their friends in the City to put their feet up’. He even suggests that the Lib Dems would not vote through any Budget that contained its abolition.

Huhne’s intervention comes at a time when George Osborne is trying to build support for abolishing—or, at least cutting—the 50p rate. Tellingly, the letter from economists opposing the 50p rate was drawn up with the help of one of the Chancellor’s closest lieutenants.

But, as with so much Lib Dem rhetoric at the moment, if you get beyond the deliberately charged soundbites there is actually not that much distance between the coalition partners. Huhne says that “a package that cut the top tax rate but offset any income gains to higher earners by curbing pension relief or applying a high-end property tax would boost incentives more than any other change.”

This is where the real debate between the coalition partners is. But Huhne’s decision to dress this relatively minor difference of opinion up in such inflammatory language is yet another reminder of how the AV campaign changed the nature of the coalition.