The Liberal Democrats have spent much of their conference getting themselves into a sweat about the rich. Both Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have signalled their reluctance to scrap the top rate of income tax, with the latter announcing the creation of 2,000 new tax collectors to ensure compliance among high earners. Don’t expect that to yield much of a return. The affluent are acting rationally rather than illegally in reaction to one of the highest marginal tax rates in Europe.
I had hoped for a change in tone from the business secretary, perhaps detailing how we could extract ourselves from economic gloom and stagnation, rather than simply obsessing about how to distribute the pain in an era of austerity. My hopes were largely dashed. The eye-catching part of Vince Cable’s speech in Birmingham yesterday was his onslaught against undeserved executive pay. Echoing the Lib Dems’ positioning that times are tough and the successful must pay their fair share, Cable has launched a consultation to get to the bottom of why chief executives’ overall remuneration packages have become so spectacularly more generous (rising about fourfold in nominal terms, from an average of £1m per annum to