Opinion: Progressives would not cut free school meals

There are many things, in policy terms, that rank and file members will be expected to swallow as a result of the Coalition. There are Lib Dem red lines drawn in the agreement. There are abstentions arranged for the Parliamentary Party on particular issues. The cuts are to come, and we have Danny as Chief Secretary, with the enormous responsibility of managing this process, and making sure that Lib Dem guns are stuck to.

It is a huge opportunity and an unenviable task. What is more, the rationale for the various cuts have to be clear, and the PR of it all has to be absolutely of the top drawer. There will be so many Opponents of the Coalition looking to pull apart the numbers; the principles behind the numbers; the politicians behind the principles behind the numbers.

So, when The Times blared ‘Poorest families will miss out on free school meals under welfare cuts’ my stomach turned.

Progressives do not cut free school meals.

As it transpires in the smaller print, what is being cut is the previous Government’s proposal to extend the scheme from families in receipt of state benefits to those working families who are least well paid.

But let’s be clear, working families receiving £307 per week have an annual income of £15,964 – that’s just under £8,000 per parent if both are there, and both are in work. That is what Michael Gove is proposing to cut.

That is not progressive in my book. And I want Lib Dem members of the Government to be able to say as much; not just to leave it to Simon Hughes as our new Deputy Leader to say it – although I am sure he will do so very well.

Of course it is the case that lower earners will benefit from our proposed increase in the personal allowance for Income Tax. And the Pupil Premium budget (as I understand it) will itself be calculated on the basis of free school meal recipients. But the Coalition must not be guilty of giving with one hand and taking away with the other – as was its predecessor so very often.

This is one of the key traits of the previous Government which alienated poorer communities. It is one that, if repeated by the Coalition, will sink its claims to progressivism without a trace.

We, the Lib Dem grassroots, have a responsibility to rail at every proposed action of the Coalition which will imperil its progressive credentials. And whatever the strictures of collective responsibility, Lib Dems in Cabinet must find a demonstrable way of doing so too.

If they don’t, then the distinctiveness of the Liberal Democrat message will be even more seriously in jeopardy.

Nick Perry stood as the Lib Dem candidate for Hastings & Rye at the General Election and is a mental health social worker

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104 Comments

  • Patrick Smith 12th Jun '10 - 12:25pm

    The parents of children on Free School Meals are often dependent on the provision of one healthy option 2 course meal with great gravitas now placed by all school catering on continuing improvement of nutritional standards that includes green vegetables and supplementary salads.

    I believe there is a good case for milk,fresh fruit or choice of juice should be available to all primary children on a daily basis, as it provides important calcium supplements and vitamin C to aid a growing diet.

    It is important to remember that school food regimes are dependent on cashless payments in canteens to aid access and economy in these strapped times for school budgets and all food chosen for menus should be low on sugar,fat and salt.

    Given there are targeted savings on wastage in the NHS where the L/D Manifesto sought to cut waste by £200 million is it not wisdom to protect and encourage the access to a healthy diet for the most vulnerable children whose parents register them for free school meals?

    Free School Meals have had an unprecedented place in the progressive free state school project, since their introduction in the post WW2 economy where children and parents were still on Ration Books until 1951.

    If any members of the `Coalition Cabinet’ have not eaten State School lunches during their formative education, than it is a useful way of finding out that healthy free school meals are often for a minority of children, their only main meal each school day.

  • “And I want Lib Dem members of the Government to be able to say as much”

    Having difficulty with this collective cabinet responsibility lark – and that consensus element of coalition Governments that mean you don’t alway get your own way?

  • PS. That Times piece indicates there’s not going to be any cut to free school meals – just that the planned extension isn’t going ahead.

    God help us, it’s Labour that portrays all this as cuts dishonestly, even saying promising to raise spending but not raise it as much as they planned was “cutting” (back in the halcyon days of 2005 when you could get away with that) – one expects better….

  • “Of course it is the case that lower earners will benefit from our proposed increase in the personal allowance for Income Tax.”

    Less than the middle and the rich, and would hurt the most from the extra £17billion of cuts that have to found to fund it. Progressives would not enact regressive (IFS’s term) tax cuts.

  • Jackie Schneider 12th Jun '10 - 12:49pm

    Excellent article which gets to the heart of the issue. However you dress it up -whether you call it a cut or a cancellation -it is the very poorest working families that will be targeted. If the taxpayer can still afford to subsidize the meals at the House of Commons – which it did to the tune of £6.1 million last year and put in new kitchens at 10 Downing St it can afford school meals for families under the official poverty line.

  • MatGB and Andy Hinton seem to me to be falling into the trap of the Tory right by accepting that there is no other alternative but massive spending cuts that will largely impact on the poorest in society.

    I respectfully disagree. What about a major attack on corporate tax evasion (a LibDem manifesto commitment) to raise extra money? How about reviewing Michael Gove’s costly free schools programme, which was forcefully criticised by many contributors to this site earlier in the week. And what about looking at the proposals Simon Jenkins outlined in the Guardian this week for major cuts in the defence budget?

    There are arguments for and against all tax and spending plans, no doubt including the above. But surely we should try at all costs to protect (and, if possible, improve) services for the less well-off? If that means the rich have to pay a little more tax or some of the Tory right’s pet projects have to be curtailed so be it. Wasn’t it Nick Clegg himself who said the other week that his role was to ensure spending cuts didn’t fall most heavily on the neediest individuals and areas?

    One could also argue that, following up Patrick Smith’s point, investment in healthy nutrition for schoolchildren now will save on NHS costs in the future.

  • Here’s where the Liberals and the Tories are the same: Progressive point to the tax cuts for the rich that Thatcher enacted off the back of temporary funds from selling off industry and say that they are unsustainable. Reactionaries want to keep the tax cuts- extend them even- and shift the blame onto the public services that the most needy rely on.

    That’s you Liberals and Tories to a tee- hoping to come out of the crisis with an even lower tax settlement and put the Labour government that will follow in the difficult position of either having to preside over your increase in poverty, crime and hardship and a declining quality of public services or having to argue for unpopular tax increases that may lose them elections. The third option of borrowing the money and relying on the rationality of markets to provide growth enough to make this sustainable is no longer tenable, and it was a tragedy that New Labour bought into such Liberal Tory voodoo claptrap.

  • I think there’s been some good comments made in this thread. We should do this because it will genuinely help people but there’s no point doing it now if it will take money away from vital existing services. I don’t think people have yet grasped the scale of cuts needed in the public sector. We should raise some taxes to maintain services. But raising all or the bulk of the money through taxation (or more money than we are currently spending??) at this point would send a shock wave across the private sector economy that it can’t afford at this delicate stage of recovery. What is going to be done next year will mean job losses and cuts to services not seen for a long time, our standard of living will drop and we will not be able to do any more of the progressive things that Labour has been able to afford in the last ten years. It’s sad but true.

  • Foregone Conclusion 12th Jun '10 - 1:47pm

    @John

    “What about a major attack on corporate tax evasion?”

    A fantastic idea, and one that was indeed in the manifesto, and is I think in the coalition agreement. Unfortunately, we calculated before the election (and remember, this is a number criticised by the IFS for being uncertain) that this would add up to about £4.5bn maximum.

    “How about reviewing Michael Gove’s costly free schools programme, which was forcefully criticised by many contributors to this site earlier in the week.”

    Again, exactly how much is that going to save?

    As for Simon Jenkins’s ideas… I don’t think that the armed forces should be immune (after all, we wanted to cut Trident), which unfortunately the Tories do. But the idea that we could just abolish the army, navy and air force without grave consequences is just fantasty-land stuff. Either we take up a pacifistic policy to never fight under any circumstances, or we have some kind of defence. In any case, a complete cut of the defence budget would only raise £45bn (and bearing in mind how many British jobs rely on defence, that wouldn’t be as simple as that).

    @Red

    “Here’s where the Liberals and the Tories are the same: Progressive point to the tax cuts for the rich that Thatcher enacted off the back of temporary funds from selling off industry and say that they are unsustainable. Reactionaries want to keep the tax cuts- extend them even- and shift the blame onto the public services that the most needy rely on.”

    Firstly, by definition a reactionary is someone who wants to go backwards to the status quo ante, which would make Labour reactionaries, seeking a return to the 1970s consensus. Now I don’t believe that Labour are ‘reactionaries’ for a second, but it shows what a tricksy word it is to use. Please, can we go back to talking about socialists/social democrats, liberals and conservatives? It would make life a lot simpler and less vague.

    Fundamentally, though, the idea that the “Liberals” (I think you mean Liberal Democrats? title=”this lot” aren’t very happy when they get mixed up with us…) have the same tax priorities as the Conservatives is nonesense. We managed to get rid of their ludicrous IHT cut, because we thought it was wrong. And now we see a struggle within cabinet, with Lib Dems on one side and Tories on the other, on the principle of increasing Capital Gains Tax.

    In any case, in thirteen years, Labour ‘progressives’ didn’t “point to the tax cuts for the rich that Thatcher enacted”. So please, no lessons.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Jun '10 - 2:22pm

    “We should raise some taxes to maintain services. But raising all or the bulk of the money through taxation (or more money than we are currently spending??) at this point would send a shock wave across the private sector economy that it can’t afford at this delicate stage of recovery.”

    Don’t you think “savage cuts” in public spending are going to send a shock wave across the economy too?

    Why do you think Vince Cable was advocating increasing borrowing to finance a boost in public spending little more than 18 months ago, and deferring cuts in public spending to give the economy more time to recover little more than a month ago?

    There’s no magic wand that can be waved. If the deficit is going to be reduced, whatever combination of spending cuts and tax increases the government adopts is going to have a painful effect. The test is how the pain is shared out, and whether the government really tries to protect the poor, as it keeps saying it will. On the evidence so far I am sceptical.

  • “Firstly, by definition a reactionary is someone who wants to go backwards to the status quo ante, which would make Labour reactionaries, seeking a return to the 1970s consensus. Now I don’t believe that Labour are ‘reactionaries’ for a second, but it shows what a tricksy word it is to use. Please, can we go back to talking about socialists/social democrats, liberals and conservatives? It would make life a lot simpler and less vague.”

    We’ve been in an age of reaction since the 1980s onwards. The Lib-Tories want to drive further into reaction, so do plenty of the Labour right. The Labour left want to get back on the road of social progress. That’s how I use the term, I’m fine with socialists versus bourgeois or any other classification that I would use to mean pretty much the same thing.

    “Fundamentally, though, the idea that the “Liberals” (I think you mean Liberal Democrats? title=”this lot” aren’t very happy when they get mixed up with us…) have the same tax priorities as the Conservatives is nonesense. We managed to get rid of their ludicrous IHT cut, because we thought it was wrong. And now we see a struggle within cabinet, with Lib Dems on one side and Tories on the other, on the principle of increasing Capital Gains Tax.

    In any case, in thirteen years, Labour ‘progressives’ didn’t “point to the tax cuts for the rich that Thatcher enacted”. So please, no lessons.”

    I don’t count New Labour as progressive on all counts, sure. Where it was not progressive was mostly where it agreed with your presmises about market economies. I don’t use “Liberal” as an insult- I would think it more insulting to be associated with the traitorous “Democrat” portion of the name personally- I use it in the same way I call the Conservative Party “Tories”.

    You have minor differences on tax with the Tories, but the fundamentals are the same. You just like to dress it up for the news- “we’re taking the poor out of tax!” with a tax cut that is regressive. “Aren’t we philanthropic for throwing the rich a banquet and allowing the poor the scraps from the table!”

  • From this September, If Labour had remained in power, an additional 600,000 children could have been eligible for free school meals. These would have been made available to primary school children from low income families who were receiving Working Tax Credit. The initiative followed the passing of the Child Poverty Act and Labour’s estimate was that 50,000 children could actually be assisted out of their poverty by extending the eligibility for free school meals. This initiative is now a victim of the Tories slash and burn approach to the public sector which Lib-Dem M.P.s are (despite their manifesto commitments) happily supporting. Apparently this is going to save just £125 million, a relative pittance. This coalition is clearly showing that the poorest and the weakest will be made to pay for the debts incurred and created by the strongest and the richest. I hope that at least one progressive Lib Dem minister ( if there are any) will have the guts to resign over this. What use is the Pupil Premium if you’re hungry?

  • Labour have left lots of time bombs like this to trip us up.don’t fall into their traps.
    What responsibilities to parents have to feed their children?

    You won’t save much money by increasing corporation taxes as firms will just continue to move to other low tax countries like Ireland

  • Paul McKeown 12th Jun '10 - 2:48pm

    Mr Gove said that Mr Balls had underestimated the costs. It would cost £125 million initially, rather than the projected £85 million, rising to £350 million in 2012-13 rather than the £215 million for which Mr Balls had planned.

    Is there really nothing else that can be cut, instead of this? This does seem like a really worthwhile initiative, even if it wasn’t in either of the Lib Dem or Con manifestos. There must be loads of overpaid consultants poncing around government departments that could be axed. Civil service salaries over 50K could be reduced by 0.5%. Whole departments of total pointlessness could be culled. Strewth, if the government can’t scrabble around the back of the sofa to come up with this amount for something this worthwhile, we really are in trouble. Can’t we reduce the cost of the program with a more stringent means test, or by tapering the benefit? Look, I know that I’m falling into the trap of handwringing liberalism here, particularly given the almost catastrophic financial overhang that has to be made safe, but do we really want to be tarred by another “Thatcher, Thatcher, milk snatcher” meme?

  • Hereward the Wake 12th Jun '10 - 5:26pm

    Extending free school meals was part of Gordon Brown’s strategy of sucking more and more people into welfare and making them dependent on the generosity of the state (with other taxpayers’ money). It was all part of the plan to ‘buy’ votes.

    The coalition Government is aiming to increase tax allowances for the low paid. That is a much better proposal; it leaves poorer people with more of their own money to spend as they wish – including their children’s diet. Parents should be responsible for providing their families meals – not the Government.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Jun '10 - 5:50pm

    “The coalition Government is aiming to increase tax allowances for the low paid. That is a much better proposal;”

    But of course, as discussed many, many, many times, that’s not the case. The policy is to increase tax allowances for everyone, so the bulk of the money will be going to those on middle incomes, not the low-paid.

    That will cost billions and billions, because it’s not targeted. And yet we’re told that the £215/350m for this far more efficient way of benefiting the low-paid.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Jun '10 - 5:52pm

    … is just not there!

  • “From this September, If Labour had remained in power, an additional 600,000 children could have been eligible for free school meals.”

    And how exactly were they going to pay for this – there was in Liam Byrne’s own words “no money”

    This policy was so important, such a priority, needed tackling so urgently that Labour waited until their 14th year in office before addressing it. Instead they were willing for someone to go through the whole of their education without addressing the issue.

    If this mattered they could actually have introduced it straightaway rather than announcing it to come into effect in a years time.

    If there is a need to cut benefits to sort out the finances (and you probably can’t do it without them) then a cut which doesn’t mean that a single person is getting any less money tomorrow than they were yesterday is not a bad place to start.

    “The initiative followed the passing of the Child Poverty Act” Something which Labour were meant to have abolished by 2010 IIRC

  • Paul McKeown 12th Jun '10 - 6:21pm

    @MatGB

    Okay, Mat, you’ve convinced me, I’ll stop wringing my hands now! 🙂 We have to get this specific story out, although it is your story, it is also every family’s story, too. And it appears to be a convincing debunking of the Labour meme. Only thing is that the threshold will not rise to £10K in one go, but broadly your story must be true. Thanks.

  • Bullshit MatGB. The IFS’s analysis tallied completely with Left Foot Forward’s analysis- if you can disprove LFF’s case then do so. It is idiotic to dismiss it just because it didn’t conclude what you want it to have concluded. If Left Foot Forward is so partisan- why did it openly approve of certain tax measures, like the Mansion Tax? Progressive measures that were the first thing to go during horsetrading and I’m sure were just put in as something to concede to the Tories. I imagine much of the Lib Dem manifesto was put together to provide policies to trade away, but anyway-

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/04/lib-dem-tax-policy-%E2%80%9Cfails-the-fairness-test%E2%80%9D-ifs-says-so-too/

    The nice things the IFS says about the Liberal policies are about the aspects that have been abandoned.

    The threshold rise increases inequality, and in doing so increases relative poverty. Income is only useful as a measure against other people’s incomes. What it will take from the poorest in public services is even more harmful. These free school meals are not the only thing that the less well off will lose. The threshold rise is projected to cost £17billion, compared to the £350million (at Gove’s higher projection) that these free school meals would cost.

    Your lot isn’t pragmatically cutting the deficit- it is ideologically stripping services away and putting a lower tax culture in place to prevent public services from being funded in the future. It is nothing less than class war.

  • Foregone Conclusion 12th Jun '10 - 6:35pm

    I think that the crucial thing re. the raising of the tax threshold is that it is only redistributive as part of a package of tax rises on the rich, which was Lib Dem policy. Some of these have been abandoned, such as the mansion tax. Some, such as the Capital Gains Tax, remain.

    “Your lot isn’t pragmatically cutting the deficit- it is ideologically stripping services away and putting a lower tax culture in place to prevent public services from being funded in the future. It is nothing less than class war.”

    You see, that’s exactly what I and I think most of the people in this party hope this isn’t about, and it’s one of the reasons we went into the coalition. Thatcher got away with a lot of stuff on the grounds of necessity that was really about ideology, and no doubt her spawn (Redwood et al) want to do it again. This time, I hope, the Lib Dems will act with the saner Tories to stop this from happening.

  • Then you and me have completely opposite views. Your Orange Book party is worse than many Tories.

  • And, as the IFS and LFF concluded, even with the taxes on the super-rich it was still only redistributive towards the middle incomed, and even with all of the progressive elements intact it would still increase inequality between poor and middle. And that’s if everything went exactly according to plan and the uncertain elements, like “clamping down on tax evasion” drew in exactly as much as the Liberals wanted.

  • MatGB-

    1)Of course monetary income is only a valid measure by comparison. If your income increases by £1 compared to everyone elses increase of £10 the standard of living you can sustain on that income is lower than previously. There is a reason the poverty line is pegged at 60% of median income (although I gather your government wants to change this to hide the rise in poverty that will ensue). The buying power of the poor will decline.

    2) That is £700 to you that costs £17billion to implement compared to £300 that costs, at the highest estimate, £350million. Do you think the extra £16.65billion in cuts will leave your standard of living neutral?

    3) It is cuts, an extra £17billion that could be saved without this regressive measure. If a tax rise is justified, then you don’t need to match that tax rise with a regressive tax cut- especially at a time when departments are looking at cuts of 20%. It is an irrational trick to try and pair two different measures as if one relies on the other and you cannot raise taxes on some of the rich without lowering them for the rich and middle as well.

    4) That link is nonsense. Of course you can judge individual policies in isolation (and even if you couldn’t- the progressive elements have been largely stripped away.) There is no inherent link between this regressive measure and the progressive measures that have been scrapped- hell, if it was a package that could only stand or fall as one unified thing how could the Liberals have discarded the mansion tax, for example? They could well judge that progressive policy in isolation couldn’t they?

    It is nothing but a trick- tacking on a regressive policy alongside the progressive and presenting it as a “package” when there is no need for it be so. If it had to they wouldn’t have been able to strip away the progressive elements.

  • Foregone Conclusion 12th Jun '10 - 7:17pm

    “Your Orange Book party is worse than many Tories.”

    I presume you’re referring to the authors of The Orange Book (2004), which includes such famous libertarian nutjobs as Steve Webb and Vince Cable.

    To be honest, there is only really one chapter that made the Orange Book infamous, and that was David Laws’s chapter on the NHS. David Laws, as you may have noticed, is no longer in government. He was never at the Department of Health. The rest was nowhere near as controversial.

  • I’m referring to the Right of your party, using Orange Bookers as a shorthand- the anti-Beveridge free market neoliberal lot like Clegg, Cable, Laws, etc who currently control the party as compared to the ones that could have possibly been placed on the centre-left like Charles Kennedy.

  • Cable wants to restrict trade unionism further, further deep privatizations, etc. He’s to the left of Clegg in the same way that Brown was to the left of Blair.

  • It’s a bit rich for “MatGB” to have a go at someone for being anonymous on the internet- and I have good reason to be anonymous. Don’t you remember that fuss last year about a company that was found to make its money by informing employers about their potential employees? Links with unionism, Left politics, etc were one of the things that this company looked for and reported. I don’t want to lose work because some company can google my name and find that I’m a socialist.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 12th Jun '10 - 7:46pm

    MatGB:
    “Please stop repeating the completely debunked Labour talking points about the raise in personal allowance.”

    Please try to develop the maturity not to shout “Labour troll!” every time anyone says anything you disagree with. (Isn’t it funny – people here used to shout “Tory troll!” whenever people expressed dissent. Plus ca change …) As a matter of fact, I’ve been making this point about the income tax cut ever since it was essentially a cut in the basic rate rather than an increase in the allowance.

    The point is that if the situation is really as dire as is claimed, then the government really should not be handing out billions and billions of pounds in an indiscriminate income tax cut, the benefit of which will go predominantly to the middle classes, not to the low-paid. What I am arguing for is a much more efficient way of directing relief at the low-paid.

    You complain that the free school meals proposal would benefit you personally by only £7.50 a week, less than the £13.50 a week you would gain from an increase of the tax allowance to £10,000. Well, for one thing, it may have escaped your notice, but that increase in the tax allowance is now just a “long-term aim” of the coalition. But did you really miss the point that the cost of the free school meals scheme would – even on Michael Gove’s figures – cost only a fiftieth as much as raising the tax allowance to £10,000? You could complement it with several other schemes that would benefit the low-paid just as much and still be making a huge saving.

    If the prime concerns are really reducing the deficit and protecting the most vulnerable, who in their right mind would _not_ follow that course? Of course, if the real aim is to give a nice fat tax cut to middle-class voters, that’s different …

  • Antony Aloysius St- that’s exactly what it is. A middle class tax giveaway disguised as philanthropy- spin with a price-tag of £17billion.

  • And my socialism is anti-employer, sure. My socialism is about democratic control of the natural resources of this world, directed towards meeting social need in all its dimensions. For the immediate future it is also about being troublesome to employers when they don’t treat the workforce well, it would not turn a blind eye to health and safety issues or other unfairness.

    Now, if my anonymity has any relevence- please state how. If you wish you could imagine those four points written by someone with a name, if that changes the substance of them? Could you answer them then?

  • @Mark Pack: All free marketeers are inherently statist when it suits- where else has your precious private property sprung from, if not state enclosure? Anyway, Vince Cable self-identifies as a free trader and a believer in the efficacy of markets. He just happens to be a hypocrite alongside it.

  • @Red are you sure as a Labour supporter you are on the right website?
    What on earth do you mean by this:
    ‘ If your income increases by £1 compared to everyone elses increase of £10 the standard of living you can sustain on that income is lower than previously.’.This is simply nonsnense. If Roman Abramovich leaves the UK does your standard of living go up?
    .
    @ MacK ‘just £125 million, a relative pittance’ – you must be a Labour supported if you think £125m is a pittance.

    @Jackie – the taxpayer is not paying for a new kitchen at 10 Dowming St, the Cameron are paying for it. Labour lies again.
    @hereward – Spot on.

  • @SMcG
    @Hereward the Wake
    By definition all political parties buy votes when they are garnering support for their policies. That is not exclusive to Labour.
    “Parents should be responsible for providing families meals –not the government.”
    Pure Thatcherite ideology. Taken to its logical conclusion no-one would ever be provided with financial aid of any kind at all. Such policies of cutting taxes in the hope that the money would “trickle down” to those in most need resulted in people sleeping in shop doorways all over the country. The only way to guarantee that thousands of hungry kids get fed is to use the strength and authority of the state to do it. You can’t rely on dysfunctional parents, even those in jobs, to feed their children. I know, as a teacher I have worked in some of the most impoverished areas in the country.
    @SMcG
    £125 million is a pittance compared to the billions of savings which could have been achieved if wealthy, greedy employers had shouldered their responsibilities and agreed to pay their share of National Incomes Contributions ;and compared to the billions in Tax Giveaways the neo Thatcherite Lib Dem Cons intend to provide for those who don’t need them but would rather keep their job and who will have their children’s trust funds taken away and their child benefits removed as well.
    @ Anthony Aloysius St
    Funny isn’t it? If you disagree with a Tory, they say you’re being political. If you disagree with a Lib Dem they call you a Tribalist. Or a troll.

  • SMcG: “@Red are you sure as a Labour supporter you are on the right website?
    What on earth do you mean by this:
    ‘ If your income increases by £1 compared to everyone elses increase of £10 the standard of living you can sustain on that income is lower than previously.’.This is simply nonsnense. If Roman Abramovich leaves the UK does your standard of living go up?”

    Why shouldn’t I post here? Just want an echo chamber do you?

    That about Roman Abramovich is beside the point, it’s not relevent. If he leaves, as one extreme, society would be more equal which has its benefits, but that’s beside the point. But it isn’t individuals- if *everyone’s* disposable income nominally rises through a redistribution from public services that benefit the poor rather than from real growth, those whose nominal income rises by the least will find their material standard of living decrease. This is simple. This isn’t extra income deriving from growth, this is a redistribution of the social product away from the poorest.

    Nick Perry: “Also, if you had spent each day of your career fighting family poverty on the front line of care services, you would know that it is Labour, not the Lib Dems, that has so abjectly let down the poorest. Labour that has presided over increasing inequality. Labour’s authoritarianism that has made having a chronic illness, being out of work or on low income such a humiliating experience.”

    Labour has failed where it has shared your neoliberalism. The New Labour project made sense for its time, in an era of confidence in markets it sought to harness that supposed perfect efficacy in support of society as a whole. New Labour’s premises failed, but they were premises shared by all parties and still expounded by your own. If you think that Labour’s record on inequality shows failure (despite bodies like the IFS pointing to Labour’s policies as the reason that inequality didn’t continue to shoot up at the level it had previously), I will come back in a couple of years time when your own policies have had their effect and see what kind of record that shows. The measures announced harm the poorest explicitly, even if all goes to plan. Labour may have failed, but you will harm the poorest far more harshly if your policies succeed in doing what they intend. If you think it was humiliating living under Labour- wait until these extra Liberal-Tory cuts that could have been avoided. If you want an example of real humiliation look at the government made up of your old allies and supported by your leader- http://www.davidosler.com/2010/06/cuts-are-not-class-neutral/

    That’s humiliation.

    “Wouldn’t your time be better spent ranting on Labour websites??”

    I do follow Labour websites. I also follow Conservative websites. Christ, how many blog posts are on this site discussing Labour? If you want a website for you to self-congratulate in a bubble while in the real world people are hurting, then fine, but state it explicitly and I’ll leave you to your fantasies.

    That’s the last refuge of those who are wrong and know it. But again, if this trivia bothers you, why not imagine my points and those of the IFS against this regressive tax cut written by a non-anonymous Liberal if that means you can then stand up for your own government?

  • leekliberal 13th Jun '10 - 4:47pm

    Red says – ‘and put the Labour government that will follow in the difficult position of either having to preside over your increase in poverty’ Isn’t that what the last Labour avchived without any help from anyone?

  • “Red says – ‘and put the Labour government that will follow in the difficult position of either having to preside over your increase in poverty’ Isn’t that what the last Labour avchived without any help from anyone?”

    That’s liberal economics for you. Please read what I’ve written, I don’t dispute that Labour failed- but where it did fail was where it conceded ground to the likes of you.

    “@Red. Bitter, patronising and deluded. Nice.”

    Fine, imagine I’m those three things. Answer my points. Is it suddenly acceptable for your government to spend £17billion on a measure that will increase inequality and poverty, even without reference to the extra cuts that would have to come to fund it, while cutting a £215-350million measure that was projected to have cut child poverty by the tens of thousands, just because the person bringing that up may be “bitter, patronising and deluded”?

    Don’t even think of me- I will hate your party for what it’s doing no matter what words you come out with. There is no progressive justification for the hurt it is planning to inflict on the poorest in its ideological anti-welfare state agenda. If you were any better than those who defended New Labour over all of its worst aspects you would be criticising these measures also- but I suppose it’s easier to buy into the propaganda that this is a measure to help the poor, when it does no such thing.

    Now, is anyone going to step up to the plate and try to defend yourselves from the substance, rather than focus on whoever I may be? It really doesn’t matter what adjectives I am- anonymous, Labour, bitter, patronising, deluded- doesn’t matter. You’re making fools of yourselves if all you can do in response to deserved criticism is try to dismiss the person making those criticisms with no justification for doing so. Answer the points- because it doesn’t matter who wins the argument, if you can satisfy yourselves by slagging me off and patting each other on the back for outing a “Labour troll” or whatever you are seriously sad individuals. What matters is who is right, and that is not you.

  • leekliberal 13th Jun '10 - 7:27pm

    Red – Lord Myners (Labour ex Minister) has just said of your Government “There is nothing progressive about a government that consistently spends more than it can raise in taxation and certainly nothing progressive that endows generations to come with the liabilities incurred with respect to the current generation,” – and you are attacking the coalition for not going ahead with yet another last minute unfunded promise from Labour. I could not join a Labour Party I see as too right-wing, apart from it’s appalling authortarianism. Just remember that this is a Tory dominated coilition and we seek to mitigate it’s worst effects while achieving electoral reform, another area where your party failed to make progress in 13 years!

  • I’m getting tired of you all dodging the issue, but I’ll play along.

    “Lord Myners (Labour ex Minister) has just said of your Government “There is nothing progressive about a government that consistently spends more than it can raise in taxation and certainly nothing progressive that endows generations to come with the liabilities incurred with respect to the current generation,””

    He says this in retrospect, of course- now that we know market economies are not self-regulating enough to sustain such a situation. Like I’ve said in this thread before, Labour failed were it shared your premises about market economies. Use your eyes, read what has already been written.

    “and you are attacking the coalition for not going ahead with yet another last minute unfunded promise from Labour.”

    A measure that costs, at the very highest estimate, £350million. As compared to a regressive tax cut of £17billion promised by your own party in government. £350million is unaffordable to you when it is helping the poor, £17billion is nothing when it is helping the middle and rich?

    “I could not join a Labour Party I see as too right-wing, apart from it’s appalling authortarianism”

    I’m not trying to persuade you to join the Labour Party, I don’t care what you do. It’s a joke for a liberal to be calling the Labour party too right wing in a thread about its abandonment of children in poverty.

    “Just remember that this is a Tory dominated coilition and we seek to mitigate it’s worst effects while achieving electoral reform, another area where your party failed to make progress in 13 years!”

    I don’t care about PR- I think it’s perpetual coalitions would lead to a less meaningful democracy in which parties campaign on manifestos drawn up with talks in mind rather than government- so we get the absurd situation were the Liberals will campaign on not cutting too soon just so that they can give that up as part of a deal, not because they ever wanted to see that policy through (they tried to get Labour to cut this year in those talks, remember. Your leadership never intended to see most of your manifesto through- it was manufactured with behind-closed-doors discussions in mind).

    And you don’t want to mitigate its worst effects- that is nonsense. This £17billion worth of cuts that will fund a measure that actively harms the poorest is something to Tories conceded to *you*. You conceded every scrap of progressive policy that been included in order to get deluded students excited.

  • “its abandonment of children in poverty.”
    I of course mean “your abandonment of children in poverty.”

  • @NIck Perry: Imagine this said slowly- address the points. It is demonstrably not progressive, because it is demonstrably regressive. Like I said earlier, there is no reason to tie this regressive measure to the progressive measures since abandoned. It doesn’t matter what it said in the LIberal manifesto because it was a manifesto created to be bartered away, and it was. What matters is what will happen- and what will happen is an extra £17billion cut from public services that would not have had to occur without this regressive, inequality increasing, poverty increasing, standard-of-living-for-the-poorest-harming tax cut.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Jun '10 - 1:21am

    “The government must act now to cut public debt or risk losing its ability to protect people in need, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to say.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/politics/10305817.stm

    I would like to believe that means the government is going to drop this plan for a multi-billion pound income tax cut, going mainly to the middle classes. If it did mean that, I’d be fully in support.

    But what I suspect it means is swingeing cuts in public spending, combined with increases in VAT – and the middle-class income tax cut going right ahead. If the party is going to support that strategy, it really has changed,

  • See the first two substantive paragraphs on the third page of this letter below. The announcement of further FSM trials before the results of the first tranche were even in was a poison pill and a crude electoral gesture which we should not feel in any way obliged to honour.

    https://consumption.echannels.eduserv.org.uk/news/news/~/media/Files/lacuna/letters/MichaelGovetoEdBallsCuts.ashx

  • “We believe the most vulnerable children deserve the very highest quality of care.” Liberal Democrat and Conservative Coalition Agreement. Crown Copyright.

    Michael Gove blocks extension of free school meals to an estimated 600,000 children. 50,000 children to remain in poverty without access to a decent regular meal. The very highest quality of care?

  • @David: Invalid security certificate for that website- from what I can glean from your post you’re trying to say that it was a £215million-£350million gesture that can’t be sustained? Again, a measure projected to bring tens of thousands of children from up under the poverty line, compared to a £17billion Liberal commitment that push even more people underneath it. It should be a no brainer, even to Tories… sorry, “Liberals”, like yourselves.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Jun '10 - 11:56am

    Red

    “Again, a measure projected to bring tens of thousands of children from up under the poverty line, compared to a £17billion Liberal commitment that push even more people underneath it.”

    Sorry, but I don’t understand this. Surely, raising the income tax allowance can’t in itself push people under the poverty line (except perhaps in a purely statistical sense). Of course, if the result of raising the allowance is that other taxes have to be raised or public services cut, it may in practice have that effect.

  • david thorpe 14th Jun '10 - 12:36pm

    it depends at where the income threshopld for the meals is set. I mean there is nothing progressive about taxing the poor to give the middle class free school meals, thats a wealth transfer from working to middle class

  • Now that the budget deficit has been shown to be £10 million lower than expected there is absolutely no need for such a spiteful, petty cut such as this.

  • er — that should read ‘Now that the budget deficit has been shown to be Ten BILLION lower than expected.” of course.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Jun '10 - 12:54pm

    david
    “it depends at where the income threshopld for the meals is set.”

    Under the plans that have just been cancelled, free school meals would have been available for families with a household income below £16,190.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/10273613.stm

  • david thorpe 14th Jun '10 - 1:29pm

    well that ius certainly a low level, is the money saved being used for the pupiul premium

  • Andrea Gill 14th Jun '10 - 1:57pm

    Not extending something is NOT a cut, and promising things to garner favours with the electorate even though the country simply CANNOT AFFORD IT is not just stupid but regressive and dangerous.

  • Andrea Gill 14th Jun '10 - 2:04pm

    Let’s not forget that Labour’s schools spending plans were considerably lower than this government’s, yet they have not been able to explain where those cuts would have taken place & instead went and poured a ton of promised cash into schemes and school building promises in marginal seats to make themselves look good.

    I for one would have found it impossible to work with such a government in a coalition, let’s hope they get their act in gear and pull their heads out of the sand if we’re ever going to be forced to go into a coalition with Labour.

  • @ Andrea Gill

    If I’d been promised something and I didn’t get it I would regard that as a cut. If I was hungry and it was food that was being cut I would regard it as an unjust and inhuman cut. If the country can’t afford to feed its children properly why should it be wasting money on unnecessary so called “free” schools for those who want to bring back selection? And if the country can’t afford to feed its children why is it planning to gave away billions in tax cuts to those who are well fed anyway? This is a mean spirited cut and it reveals the Liberal Democrats to be just as mean spirited as the Tories.

  • @Mack – are you in a parellel universe? Academies are not allowed to select. And where are the billionas of tax cuts?

  • @geoffrey and once they have read the Spirit level they can read ‘the Spirit Level Delusion’ where they can see how the data has been cherry picked and does not in fact support the case that inequality leads to health and social problems

  • “Sorry, but I don’t understand this. Surely, raising the income tax allowance can’t in itself push people under the poverty line (except perhaps in a purely statistical sense). Of course, if the result of raising the allowance is that other taxes have to be raised or public services cut, it may in practice have that effect.”

    The poverty level is pegged at 60% of the median income- a somewhat arbitrary line, but it is intended to take into account “relative poverty”, which changes as the average level of personal affluence in a society changes. It is also a fact that this isn’t extra income from growth, rather a redistribution and will hurt the standard of living for the poor in real terms. The medium and the rich will have their percentage of the social product increase, while the poorests will decrease. And because it’s a redistribution, not growth that has happened to benefit the rich and middle more, it means the poor will be able to support an even lower material standard of living on that income. On top of the cuts that will have to come to fund it.

    Nick Perry: “@Red – I have addressed your points but you don’t agree. No great surprise.”

    You haven’t even come close sunshine. These are my points, I’ll spell them out as I would a child once again because I obviously have to-

    1) It is regressive and increases inequality between the poor and the middle and the rich. Justify that.
    2) It leaves the poor with a lower standard of living and a poverty rate higher than if never enacted. Justify that.
    3) It costs £17billion, which means an extra £17billion worth of cuts. The most vital £17billion could theoretically be saved, whatever that will be. Justify that.
    4) It was argued for as part of a “package” that we apparently couldn’t split up, we had to take the regressive with the progressive for some unknown reason that made for a ready excuse for you lot before the election. Then you cut away all the progressive elements, despite it apparently being a “packaged whole.” Justify that.
    5) This is in contrast the free school meals that cost, at the very highest estimate produced by Gove, £350million and was projected to bring tens of thousands of children above the poverty line. Apparently that is now unaffordable while a tax cut for the middle and rich, costing £16.65billion more, is not.

    @Andrea Gill: “I for one would have found it impossible to work with such a government in a coalition, let’s hope they get their act in gear and pull their heads out of the sand if we’re ever going to be forced to go into a coalition with Labour.”

    Let’s hope Labour has more sense. I’ve been impressed with the emails by leadership candidates for the party using the term “only progressive party.” They’re exactly right.

    @Geoffrey Payne: “The danger we face in the forthcoming budget is that progressive gains in restructuring the tax regime”

    There is no progressive gain. This is a regressive tax cut, not a restructuring. If you’re so concerned about inequality you would oppose it completely. It would be better for inequality if that £17billion was burned.

    @SMcG: “And where are the billionas of tax cuts?”

    *Facepalm* I assume you voted for one of the reactionary parties in government? You should really be following your own parties’ policies.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 14th Jun '10 - 9:25pm

    Red

    As I suggested, I can see how giving people a tax cut can make some of them “poorer” in a purely statistical sense, but I don’t think it can make them poorer in any real sense. (Though if it results in additional cuts in public services or increases in indirect taxation, that obviously can make them poorer.)

    I don’t think a flat-rate tax cut would normally be considered “regressive”. After all, a flat-rate tax increase (for example the imposition of a poll tax) is certainly not progressive!

  • @SMcG
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/27/tory-free-schools-inequality

    Please check out the above link to see what Francis Gilbert says in The Guardian about Tory plans for state schools to opt out and become semi-academies to obtain greater control over admissions. The history of Tory education opt out plans is to move the state sector towards selection. I was there when they tried it with Grant Maintained schools back in the eighties. As for the tax cuts, just watch the budget. Osborne’s plans to lower Corporation Tax and reward the overfed fat cats will deprive The Treasury of an estimated £6.4 billion — more than the planned savings the Coalition wants to achieve this year. Meanwhile, children are deprived of eligibility for free school meals! Sure it’s me who’s in a parallel universe?

  • Let’s make this simple- would you MatGB be in favour of abolishing the welfare state in its entirety in exchange for £701? With the majority of the money saved going to the richest (after all, who’s to moan when the rich get richer if the poor get a little richer too? “Intensely relaxed about the filthy rich” are we?)

    Proportionality means nothing to you it seems, if you’re willing to defend dropping a measure to give £300 to the poorest children costing at the most £350million (as this is too expensive in this era of belt-tightening) but willing to introduce a measure costing, what, fifty times that to get £700? Your party favours the rich against the poor, that much is clear.

  • And my huge post got moderated out. I’m sure I’ve seen terms like “bullsh*t” on this site before. I’m sure I’ve posted them myself.

    I’ll condense what points I can remember-

    1) You say that net tax rises are not politically acceptable, therefore if you manage to get any new taxes you automatically have to then spend the money on a regressive tax cut for some reason. This is a false premise, even if it did make sense (which it doesn’t). The Liberals were the only party promising tax neutrality- even the Tories stretched to tackling the deficit 80/20 cuts/taxes.

    2) Most of the progressive tax rises that were to fund it (as if they’re intrinsically linked anyway!) have been scrapped. The package, that we were told must include this regressive tax cut in order to have the progressive elements, has been taken to pieces and the progressive elements removed. It was never true that you had to have all or nothing.

    3) Progressive and regressive have defined meanings in terms of tax. You keep on saying that *I* define them as regressive and *you* define it as progressive. This is nonsense. A regressive tax cut is one that benefits the rich more than the poor. A progressive tax is one that costs the rich more than the poor. These are clearly defined terms.

    4) Relative poverty is generally accepted by academics, I can see why you’d be against it though- Thatcherites always were (though they tended to be the only ones).

    5) It matters not whether you choose to define poverty relatively or absolutely- this will increase both, as the £17billion of extra cuts in public services affects the poorest far more than the tax cut- and the very poorest who will gain nothing from the tax cut even more so. Poverty is not solely income, but rather standard of living in all its dimensions so that, for example, a child with access to free healthcare is not more in poverty than a child without such access who has £1 more.

    6) You oppose Labour’s Free School Meals, which costs a fiftieth of what your tax cut costs to deliver- as I think you said- £300. Apparently it is unaffordable, but something that costs fifty times that is not.

    7) I say that it is a tax cut for the middle and rich because those two groups benefits from it far more than the poor. Someone on £8K will gain less than someone on one hundred times that income.

    8) This cannot be said to be a measure directed at helping the poor when the poorest twenty percent of people will gain only five percent of the cost, and most of the cost goes to the middle and rich.

    9) The links supposedly justifying this tax cut that people posted were from before you scrapped the progressive measures that were supposed to go alongside it. The mansion tax etc. Not that these justified it in any case.

    You have chosen to lower the funds available for public services by £17billion in order to enact a regressive tax cut. This at a time when departments are to be cut by 20%. Do you think that £700 is worth £17billion extra from public services that would already be cut down to the bone? Don’t you remember Thatcher’s comparatively mild cuts- the skyrocketing crime, the child poverty four times higher than in the country she inherited, the waiting lists of 18months for a dying NHS?

    You seem to think that public services are nothing. That money in your pocket is always better, no matter what the cost and no matter how paltry the amount. You say £700 means a lot to you, does it mean as much as £17billion of the most vital public services that otherwise would not have to be cut?

  • Anthony Aloysius St 15th Jun '10 - 12:03am

    “The money being raised to pay for it is extra taxes, and the only way this has been justified, politically, is to make it a revenue neutral switch.”

    I must say I hadn’t realised until I read James Graham’s post just how little of those extra taxes had been accepted by the Tories. Only about 10% of them apparently. And elements of the Tory party are trying to whittle that down further.

    I think this means that:
    (1) Even though the £10,000 allowance has been incorporated in the coalition agreement as a “long-term aim”, it is probably just a sop to the Lib Dems, and will never actually happen;
    (2) Such of it as does happen will not be funded by the tax rises that the Lib Dems were proposing, but by spending cuts.

    My initial reaction to the coalition agreement was (against my instincts) that the Lib Dems had got a remarkably good deal. But the more time goes on, the more it seems that – on anything to do with money rather than constitutional reform – it’s the Tories who are calling all the shots.

  • @MatGB
    Your comments, interesting as they are ignore the moral and practical imperatives involved in this issue. If prisoners were denied food there would be riots in all our prisons: children are powerless and are therefore perceived as expendable by cynical politicians. To argue about whether extended eligibility for free school meals for the poorest children is affordable in a country as rich as ours is outrageous. Remember, too that the decision to deprive Britain’s children of free school meals has been decided by a coalition of millionaires.

  • david thorpe 15th Jun '10 - 11:03am

    I dont know where this idea of denied food comes from…the proposed cuts are to the school meals of people who havent had free meals this school year andf they are eating this year…….

  • @Anthony Aloysius St: “My initial reaction to the coalition agreement was (against my instincts) that the Lib Dems had got a remarkably good deal. But the more time goes on, the more it seems that – on anything to do with money rather than constitutional reform – it’s the Tories who are calling all the shots.”

    That’s predicated on assuming that the Clegg wing of the Liberal Democrats is all that averse to Tory economics. My own personal theory is that much of the Liberal manifesto was included purely to give the party some leverage during discussions with the Tories- the timing of the cuts for example. We’re supposed to believe that the Lib Dems agreed with Labour on the 6th of May about not cutting this year, but for the next few days, in their talks with Labour, were arguing for cuts this year? No, I think that supposed disagreement with the Tories was contrived so that the Liberals could concede cuts this year to the Tories in exchange for ministerial places or whatever. Clegg’s team wasn’t stupid- they knew they were forming a manifesto to be bartered over and I think much was deliberately included or left out with talks in mind rather than because they wanted to see those policies through.

  • Jeremy Poynton 16th Jun '10 - 3:15pm

    Another point. Calling yourself “progressive” does not make you “progressive”.

  • david thorpe 16th Jun '10 - 3:29pm

    exdactly this is not taling food from children you will not east otherwise,because its a measure that hasnt been itnroiduced yet

  • @MacK
    “Your comments, interesting as they are ignore the moral and practical imperatives involved in this issue.”

    The moral and practical imperatives are that the parents of the children should feed them. It is outrageous to think that people should choose to have children and that others are then responsible for funding various aspects of their nurture, the entitlement (to other people’s money) culture in the UK has become ridiculous. I should not see a child go hungary, but I do not believe that these children need go hungary if the lower paid are allowed to keep the vast majority of their income and give appropriate priority to their children’s welfare.

  • Jeremy Poynton 17th Jun '10 - 8:52am

    DocBud.

    Spot bloody on. The UK is now the entitlement society. I would add, there are NO POOR in this country. Where are the barefoot kids? Where are the kids with no schools? Where are the kids with no doctors?

    If you can’t feed your kids, you shouldn’t have had them.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 17th Jun '10 - 9:06am

    Indeed. And the solution to childhood poverty may have been staring us in the face for nearly 300 years:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/1080

  • @MacK “You can’t rely on dysfunctional parents, even those in jobs, to feed their children”

    And by nannying your citizens and doing their jobs for them, you give them precisely ZERO reason or incentive to learn differently.

  • @Red “My own personal theory is that much of the Liberal manifesto was included purely to give the party some leverage during discussions with the Tories- the timing of the cuts for example.”

    Our manifesto stated “We will base the timing of cuts on an objective assessment of economic conditions, not political dogma.”

    What in this precisely was “dropped”? I don’t think Cable and Clegg should have rigidly stuck to “no cuts this year” because that is not what we were actually proposing as such.

    I urge you to have a look back at the news on the night of the 6th to 7th May, because something really brought it home to me: I recently listened to the election night podcast from LBC, especially the bit where they are discussing how the markets are reacting to the potential of a hung parliament, and the markets dropping significantly in reaction to the Greek situation on that very night.

  • @MacK “If the country can’t afford to feed its children properly ”

    Do you seriously believe that this is merely a money issue, and that the State should do the parents’ job for them rather than address the underlying issues that cause such injustice and neglect?

    What’s next, do away with families and hand your children over to the all-powerful state so they can feed and clothe them because let’s just give up on encouraging good parenting and responsibility?

  • I’ve been a teacher in the primary sector for 15 years and i think the insults directed at labour are unfair. I’m not a labour voter! But primary education in this country has improved 10 fold since they came to power in 1997 (i used to teach in a portacabin with outside loos in the bad old tory days!)
    This universal free school meals plan is an excellent idea, there is a stigma attached among children towards those who recieve free school meals – if every child got a meal for free this would be alleviated and would cut out alot of the rubbish in packed lunches!
    People are saying things like, “there are NO POOR in this country. Where are the barefoot kids?” You are very naive, i have seen children in this country in what might as well be barefoot, unwashed for days; even weeks and very poorly fed. Sorry to break this to you but poverty does exist in this country, it would be good to see every child recieving free meals, so the poorer children are not marked out as being different.

  • Andrea Gill 17th Jun '10 - 3:16pm

    @Ray: “This universal free school meals plan is an excellent idea”

    Sure it is, but we can’t afford this, and most importantly it does not address the underlying problems of poverty and neglect.

  • Andrew Stevens 17th Jun '10 - 5:31pm

    Well I did wonder how much we would have to compromise for our share of power.

    I think we have to be pragmatic but we shouldnever lose sight of our principles. Unfortunately it seems that some of the posters are taking this collaboration with conservatives a little too seriously. Whining about the nanny state – or saying there are no poor is the worst kind of conservative indifference coupled with an ignorance of the existence of the poorest levels of society.

    “Progressives do not cut free school meals.” is a simple statement of fact.

    Our country will be unrecognisable in 5 years time. Our party already is.

  • Andrew Stevens 17th Jun '10 - 5:36pm

    @andregill
    “Sure it is, but we can’t afford this, and most importantly it does not address the underlying problems of poverty and neglect.”

    Disingenuous. You are suggesting these savings could be made in no other way and that because we aren’t addressing the root cause we shouldn’t bother with the symptoms. Neither of which are true.

    Especially questionable given that a good diet gives children a greater chance of lifting themselves out of poverty (directly impacts learning and health).

  • David Allen 17th Jun '10 - 7:15pm

    When I read this debate, my thoughts go back to the shortest Question Time question ever, when all three parties solemnly declared themselves in favour of reduced social inequality. Dimbleby gloomily commented that since everybody agreed, there was no issue to debate and he woudl have to move on to the next question. Nobody had the temerity to point out that government s for the last thrity years have presided over an increase in inequality! The lesson is…

    HUMBUG!

    So now let’s have the truth. The Tory party always has stood for increased inequality, and always will. Labour are split on the issue, and would tend in reality to settle for little change. We proposed changes that would be mildly progressive. The claims by Labour that they were regressive, and by our own apologists that they were massivley progressive, were equally ludicrous. We settled for mildly progressive policies because, like everyone else, we need the voters.

    Well, now we have decided to ally ourselves with the promoters of inequality. The obvious demerits of that course of action may well be matched or exceeded by the demerits of the alternatives. What should we expect to achieve?

    It would be ludicrous to suppose that we should win all the arguments with the Tories and force George Osborne to boast of his determination to soak the rich. It would be equally wrong to accept massive cuts directed disproportionately towards the poor. We should settle for policies which don’t make inequality worse and which do take action to minimise the impact of cuts on the poorest. We are not in a bargaining position to ask for more than that. Not improving a free school meals benefit – above what Labour actually did – is probably something we will just have to accept.

  • Paul Krishnamurty 17th Jun '10 - 10:15pm

    I wouldn’t have thought a progressive would be up for closing hospitals. Still, its only in a Labour constituency, eh?

    Then again, I’d have thought a party led by a Sheffield MP, who couldn’t namecheck the city often enough in the TV debates, might have done a little more to help Sheffield Forgemasters.

  • As a School Governor, and a manager in a manufacturing company in Sheffield I am doubly disappointed by the news today.
    The total lack of any regard for the plight of children in poorer families is abhorrent and should be to any decent fairminded citizen – shame on any politician who attacks children first.
    Then the inability to support a company looking to put british manufacturing back into the forefront of world expertise. Short term gain – long term major loss. If this is the best we can do for our country and it’s people we have already lost.
    Government for the benefit of all UK citizens please.
    In case you had forgotten, that means, looking after the ones least able to look after themselves first.!
    Oh and its not against the rules to say no to David go back to the drawing board.

  • Andrea Gill 19th Jun '10 - 1:23am

    The longer the more I think that a strong, properly thought-through schools policy is going to be a major vote-winner for us at the next election, and something we can really stand out for and differ from the Conservatives on.

  • Andrea Gill 19th Jun '10 - 2:10am

    This speech by Clegg in March makes our attitude to cuts more obvious: http://www.ippr.org.uk/uploadedFiles/Podcasts/Clegg_ippr_speech_160310.pdf

  • Andrea Gill 19th Jun '10 - 2:15am

    @Paul Krishnamurty: “I wouldn’t have thought a progressive would be up for closing hospitals.”

    Christ you’ve not even bothered to engage your brain before stating this, have you. How on earth does not funding a NEW BUILD for a hospital – promised by Labour out of fantasy money – equate to “Closing hospitals?” By your logic, people who are not having sex are killing babies for crying out loud!

  • Andrea Gill 19th Jun '10 - 2:20am

    Also on the welfare state and the responsibility of the state and local government, just had a lenghty discussion with our local – Labour – council leader, with him basically saying that the state needs to empower people and encourage & enable them to be successful, rather than nanny them into utter hopelessness and lack of ambition.

    Good to see that at least on a local level, Labour councillors have more sense than most Labour MPs and, it seems, some rather hypocritical and “ostrich-mannered” so called Lib Dem “supporters” (who seem suddenly wanting to distance themselves from the party now they are expected to act positively rather than snipe from opposition).

  • i am very worried for my daughter, stigmatised as we are for being on state benefit although i am working and doing ny part as a citizen, that my daughter who has not been on a holiday for the past six years will be denied a proper lunch at school. Ed balls just said on andrew mar show that the school meal would be cut in the next budget.

    The libdems cannot let that happen, please dont let that happen.

  • @jehan. he is lying. No one who gets school meals will have them taken away. he knows this. he just wants to scare you.

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  • User AvatarMatthew Huntbach 28th May - 5:29pm
    Michael BG @ Matthew Huntbach I didn’t claim that the Iraq War was an attack on Islam I didn't say that you personally made that...
  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 28th May - 5:26pm
    malc: oops, we agree on something. Tim's actually a strong fighter for gay rights. He was the only major party leader to condemn the Chechnya...
  • User Avatarmalc 28th May - 4:37pm
    expats There is a massive difference between Tim Farron's "chequered history" on gay sex and Corbyn attending a wreath-laying for a terrorist involved with the...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 28th May - 3:34pm
    Simon, I wrote an article on a site for Ustinov Forum, which I am a member of and contributor ,this few days, called Manchester United,...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 28th May - 3:26pm
    Dave , as ever decent is you , me , those on this site, it is not always Cobyn's way, SinnFein for Ireland, Cuba, Venezuela...
  • User Avatartheakes 28th May - 3:22pm
    Do not know really where to submit this, but the US is apparently deploying a third carrier group to the region of North Korea. Lots...