The yawning gap between Lib Dems and Tories
Vince Cable has been the great scourge of how banks hid the risks they've been taking by keeping much of their financial activity off their published balance sheet.
So I had to slightly chuckle at the Lib Dem manifesto's presentation of a Lib Dem government's de facto profit-and-loss account.
Because Cable's plan to levy a tax on banks' profits is classified as a "savings proposal" rather than as a "tax proposal".
Now in fairness to him, the Lib Dems' proposals for the public finances are set out in a more helpful tabular form than is to be found in either the Labour or Tory manifestos.
Unlike Labour and the Tories, the Lib Dems make it incredibly easy to see that (just like Labour and the Tories) they would only make a start in reducing the public-sector deficit - and have promised expenditure cuts only in the generality rather than the detail.
But I think Mr Orwell would have something to say about the classification of a tax as a saving, even when the targets of the tax are institutions as unpopular as the banks.
Also, there is no detail about how any bank's liability to the proposed tax would be calculated. All we're told is that the levy would raise just over £2bn in the current financial year, rising to almost £3bn in 2014-15.
Which sounds like a lot of money, but is actually quite small beer compared with the £5.5bn a year that the Lib Dems would raise by restricting relief on pension contributions to the basic rate of tax.
The Lib Dems would be taking to a logical conclusion the reduction of tax reliefs for those on higher earnings already announced by the government.
On the Lib Dem's plan, anyone earning more than £44,000 a year, and paying into a pension, would see a tax rise - although those paying 40% tax who earn less than £100,000 a year and make fairly modest pension contributions would probably be net beneficiaries from the Lib Dem's flagship tax idea, which is to increase the tax free personal allowance to £10,000 (at a whopping cost of £16.8bn).
As Stephanie has pointed out, like Labour the Lib Dem's would phase out the personal allowance for those earning more than £100,000.
That said, and using terminology that some might regard as archaic, the Lib Dem's manifesto does seem the most "left wing" of the main three parties' - and by quite a margin.
It is more explicitly redistributive than Labour's - and Labour's is the most redistributive of any of its manifestos since 1992.
Also the Lib Dem manifesto is explicit about its distaste for those on higher earnings. Not only is it bashing bankers' bonuses (see my note of yesterday), but it would force all public companies to "declare in full all remunerations of £200,000 per year or more".
Crikey. Some would say that the Lib Dems have journeyed quite a long way from that liberal strand of their origin.
All that said, there are elements of the Lib Dem programme that will be seen as friendlier to business and investors: there are the routine pledges to reduce red tape; and the manifesto echoes the Tory distaste for Labour's planned National Insurance rise, which it too describes as a tax on jobs (although unlike the Tories, the Lib Dems won't commit to any timetable for reversing the rise).
Even so, the thrust of this manifesto would be seen as toxic by many Tories and delicious by traditional Labour supporters. Which raises the question whether it's remotely realistic to think that the Tories and Lib Dem could cohabit in government, in the event that the Conservatives emerged as the largest party but without an overall majority.