No ring-fencing for cuts as Vince feels the love

Liberal Democrat Voice at Conference

On Lib Dem Voice: Reportage | Live Twitter Stream | Contribute
On the official party website: Conference home
Watch Live on BBC Parliament

When the main hall is packed at a Spring Conference, you can be sure it isn’t because everyone wants to debate the third clause of the Federal Conference Committee’s report, or even (as we heard this morning) discuss the rights and wrongs of holding a conference that clashes with Mothers’ Day.

No, it’s because St. Vince of Twickenham is taking to the stage. The halo may have slipped slightly on occasion, most notably the hastily-revised Mansion Tax proposals made at Bournemouth last September, but for the party faithful it’s still Vince who can heal the sick and, if weather conditions are right, walk on water.

Vince’s message is that the Liberal Democrats were right. Right about the downturn, right about the banking crisis, and right for the future.

A decade ago, a group of Lib Dems, including Vince, fought the demutualisation of the Building Societies and told Gordon Brown to cut the excessive profits of the banks. But like the Old Testament prophets, the warnings went unheeded and we’ve all paid the price.

Gordon Brown, Vince tells us, seems more like Ashley Cole. Not (we fervently hope) sending pictures of his genitals to girlfriends on his mobile phone, but asking for a second chance despite having done everything to show he doesn’t deserve one.

Vince has no great love for the banking community. “Not all bankers were greedy and stupid, but plenty were”. Thousands of British companies are being throttled because they can’t get the funds they need, whilst banks, yet again, pay out enormous bonuses and rake in big profits on the back of their taxpayer-funded bailout.

His attitude is uncompromising. “Banks that are too big to fail are simply too big and have to be broken up”.

Any Government depends on the markets to finance the deficit, and the Lib Dems will be financially responsible. Unlike the Conservatives, Vince tells us, the Lib Dems won’t indulge in frightening the markets for political gain.

Vince criticises the Tories for flip-flopping over whether we should cut this year or at some unspecified time in the future.

“I’d love to give you a serious critique of the Tories’ budget plans but I’ve absolutely no idea what they are. ‘Trust us and we’ll tell you after the election’ isn’t good enough.”

There will be spending cuts, but not too soon. The timing and speed of cuts has to reflect the state of the economy – not strangle change.

This list of cuts doesn’t include any new items: serious public sector pay restraint for two years with no pay rises above £8 a week and no bonuses. Axe child tax credits for higher earners. Cut expensive defence contracts like Eurofighter and like-for-like Trident replacement. Cut back Regional Development Agencies, scrap regional government, stop spending money on consultants and end illiberal, costly Government databases like ID cards.

A noteworthy comment from Vince was that there’ll be no ring fencing – the Lib Dems look across all departments for cuts. That’s not to say all departments will see cuts; but Vince was clear that none will be out of bounds.

So far Vince and his team have identified annual saving of £15 billion, with the full details to be set out in the manifesto. The Lib Dems would set out priorities and debate them openly: it’s right and fair that the people affected by cuts should have their say, we were told.

Vince believes the public will accept austerity for a time, if the burdens are seen to be fair and fairly shared. But we can’t, and shouldn’t, expect the wider public to accept austerity if the Government kowtows to bankers and non-doms.

Finally, Vince restated the Lib Dem’s tax plans: to take millions out of the tax system altogether by making the first £10,000 income tax free, and increase tax for the very rich and the banks that have made so much money.

The end of Vince’s speech was a little understated. No rousing finale, but then he doesn’t need one: he could have spent the time making balloon animals and still received a standing ovation. He didn’t though.

This was Vince on form, and the gap between Cable and Osborne grows starker by the day.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Conference.
Advert

One Trackback

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Blake 27th Apr - 9:22pm
    I've been impressed with her appearances on the TV programme The Pledge, where she has clearly shown that she has a good brain and more...
  • User AvatarFiona 27th Apr - 9:22pm
    You are right, A Social Liberal, that diversity doesn't stop with gender and race, but it's a particularly visible weakness, and how can we encourage...
  • User Avatarnvelope2003 27th Apr - 9:16pm
    Why not if it helps ? I did not notice our big lead in the polls. Maybe it evaporated while I blinked. For a supposedly...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 27th Apr - 9:11pm
    Michael (Meadowcroft), as usual, makes a powerful and persuasive case, and I know him to be a man of deep sincerity and integrity. I cannot...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 27th Apr - 9:07pm
    Glad to read the above comments, with which I agree. Are we so desperate for candidates that we must slaver over the nearest thing to...
  • User AvatarHywel 27th Apr - 9:05pm
    "Welcome" - really Caron. REALLY? This is who you just welcomed and are semi-endorsing as a putative candidate Welcome indeed "I don't believe for a...