Public Negotiation: Phase 1 kicked off on Thursday 26 January 2012. It ended on 21 March 2012. The deputy prime minister’s first demand was to allow the lowest paid to keep more of the money they earn next year by implementing more quickly the Lib Dem policy of raising the income tax personal allowance to £10,000. However badly the budget was presented, Clegg’s stance can only be judged a success: the policy was implemented significantly more quickly, with the threshold being raised by £1100 next April.

Yesterday, Clegg signalled the start of Phase 2, and it’s tax policy on which he’s focussing again. Calling for the introduction of a “time-limited” wealth tax to help reduce the deficit, Clegg told the Guardian:

If we are going to ask people for more sacrifices over a longer period of time, a longer period of belt tightening as a country, then we just have to make sure that people see it is being done as fairly and as progressively as possible.

As someone who has previously called for this sort of constructive public negotiation as an alternative to the sort of destructive internal opposition politics we have seen glimpses of during this government’s term, I welcomed Clegg’s move back in January and I equally welcome his most recent intervention. It is through differentiation of this nature that the coalition will survive; the alternatives of either total harmony or open warfare are both far more likely to lead to the collapse of the government.

Far from being merely pre-conference kite-flying, this sort of open dialogue is the way that coalition should work. Voters should be able to see the priorities of the governing parties. And if Tory MPs want to continue responding to such debates like schoolchildren (yes, Mr Jenkin, I’m talking about you), I say let them carry on, and leave the work of government to the grown-ups.

So I say three cheers for Nick Clegg. I look forward to hearing more details of the plan, and to seeing how the Tory party responds without further entrenching the disastrous view that it is the party of, and for, the rich.

* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.