To the average person on a low income or who is unemployed, the idea that voting for a political party can make much, if any, difference to their life would seem absurd.
It has not always been this way. The Liberal government of 1906 did much to respond to the social agenda, although it did not do enough to halt the emergence the Labour party. The 1945 Labour government implemented policies such as the introduction of the NHS which secured the disproportionate support of the working class, even to this day.
Today of course the divisions between rich and poor are getting wider, and have done so for many years. The Lib Dem policy of extra income tax for the very rich to secure more funding for public services was a net vote winner at the last general election, by a substantial margin.
However I am not going to argue that we change this policy back again. The argument that the Red-Green coalition in Germany had been changing their tax policy in the other direction was well made by Vince Cable in the debate last year. The key criteria is the net take taken by the exchequer, and if specific progressive taxes causes the rich to dodge the tax laws and pay less then there is no point in doing it.
In any case, as was pointed out in the debate, the FSA was quoted as saying that our tax policies overall are even more progressive than before.
So what concerns me, coming from a Labour stronghold, is that the message is not getting made. Nationally the Lib Dems are not associated with tackling poverty.
At the last conference Vince Cable made what I thought was a very interesting speech which again sounded very progressive. And in his leadership speech, Ming made it very clear that the division between rich and poor was one of his top priorities.
Yet I am meeting at a grass roots level activists who do not care about this division, and they say that the division should be left to market forces. This of course will mean that you extrapolate the trends we saw under Thatcher and Major.
So I am concerned that the party is rather half hearted on this issue.
More generally I am wondering what we can do in terms of policies in addition to taxation.
The UNICEF report that put the UK 21 out of 21 countries in the world, in how we look after children in this country. 20th place went to the USA.
The anglo-US economic model, low taxes and underfunded and privatised public services does not work well for children, even if it makes the GNP figures look good (to some extent helped by easy credit and high level consumer spending generated from high personal debt levels financed by an unsustainable housing boom).
So where is our commitment to public services? How do we turn this sorry state of affairs around for the Liberal Democrats?