by Ray Fleming

T he political party conference season approaches, from 22 September to 10 October. The Liberal Democrats will be first in to bat in just over three weeks from now -- which may help to explain the otherwise almost inexplicable initiative on soaking the rich which Nick Clegg launched yesterday. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian the Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister said it was necessary “to ensure that the rich should shoulder a greater burden of Britain's economic pain” and suggested a time-limited emegency wealth tax on Britain's rich. The idea was immediately slapped down by Chancellor George Osborne who said it would endanger economic recovery by “driving the wealthy away”. It can be taken for granted that the proposal has not passed across David Cameron's desk and even the LibDem's spokesperson in the House of Lords, Baroness Kramer, told the BBC's Today programme that she had not been consulted, adding rather lamely that “It's going to be very interesting to hear all the details”. Nick Clegg and his party voted for a reduction of the top rate of income tax in the last budget so they are hardly in a position to call for a wealth tax now, even though there may be arguments in its favour. Mr Clegg is in for a rough time at Brighton and this half-baked proposal will not help him.