I usually agree with the stuff that Iain Dale writes in his regular column for the Telegraph, but I didn't today. Iain's lauds Nick Clegg for stating publicly that liberal Democrat policy is to reduce public spending, and consequently to reduce taxation. Iain's first wrong assumption is that many will find this statement at all credible. For as long as most voters can remember, the Liberal Democrats have called for greater public spending, and consequently more taxation. And its no good adopting a policy if no-one thinks you mean it. To most voters its just not credible.
This is not to say that I disagree with what Nick Clegg is saying - even if none of his own party will have any truck with it. I, too believe, that public spending and taxation should be cut - but my view, and it seems David Cameron's, is that this should not be promised in a manifesto unless there is a certainty that it could be delivered. And how can there be certainty, when the current Government is borrowing money as if the world is going to come to an end next week.
And how can Iain give any credibility to Clegg's promise to cut £20 billion from public spending, without giving us any idea where the cuts are going to be made. There has probably never been an election when opposition parties didn't announce that they were going to save money on 'bureaucracy' - especially those who did not have the slightest chance of actually forming a Government which had to deliver on the promises.
The biggest problem facing politicions in Britain is that the people no longer believe what they say. I would love to hear my party promise to spend and tax less, but how on earth can we be certain of being able to do so in the immediate aftermath of a General Election victory resulting from a Labour inspired collapse of the national finances. It's right that David Cameron says that his aim is to lower the taxation burden over time. I believe this is true, and I think the general aim is believable. The reason that the Osborne announcement on Inheritance Tax last October had such a dramatic effect was not because it was going to reduce the tax burden (it didn't) but it did convince people that what is often called 'the direction of travel' was in the right direction. The Conservatives would reduce taxation when they could reasonably do so. The promise worked because it was entirely believable - and people liked it. Nick Clegg's promises are not.