Poor Nick Clegg.
After a couple of years in government he's reached the point where if he declared the sun rose in the east his own mother would set the alarm early and get a compass out.
No-one's going to believe for a minute that he has any intention of taxing the rich - let alone any chance of persuading the Tory-led Cabinet of millionaires to accept the idea.
This is a man who feebly surrendered to the Conservatives on all of his party's big promises - tuition fees, the NHS, electoral reform.
Who on earth believes he has the clout to force through a policy so alien to everything the Tories stand for?
But the truth is, he's not even going to try.
Like the Orange Book zealots who have hijacked the Liberal Democrats he believes in slashing taxes on the rich and slashing services for the poor.
His record speaks for itself.
He voted to scrap the 50p tax rate after an unconvincing show of resistance aimed only at appeasing his party. He went along with a VAT rise targeted at the poor which he had loudly and publicly opposed before the election.
And he's done nothing to make good on his party's promise to tackle the tax dodging by companies and the super-rich that is costing Britain billions.
So the odds of him making a U-turn on his cherished neoliberal principles are about the same as David Cameron showing up at the Hackney branch of the Communist Party.
But it is a useful time for Clegg to be heard making vaguely left-wing noises - and for the Tories to be seen slapping him down.
Conference season is nearly on us and Clegg is facing an absolute savaging from activists furious at the party's nosediving popularity and what they see as a string of betrayals.
Meanwhile, Cameron is under pressure from the extreme right of his own party who - bizarrely - believe he has conceded too much to the dangerous pinko Clegg.
So this has the stench of a manufactured row designed to give both leaders a boost heading into what looks likely to be a rocky autumn.
But it's unlikely to work for both sides. With his credibility long since shredded, Clegg's posturing is surely a waste of effort.
He's a lame duck, as half his party - the sensible half who want him gone by the next election - recognise.
But Cameron's position is nowhere near as shaky and winning a public row with his hapless deputy would very handy for him.
Clegg can't help himself. Even as he trudges towards the exit door and a place in history as one of Britain's worst-ever party leaders, he's a useful idiot to the very end.
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