Tag Archives: william gladstone

Something for the weekend: the great and glorious Lib Dem game of “what if?”

At the Glasgow conference in October 2014, there was something of an organisational snafu surrounding the BOTYs (Liberal Democrat Voice Blogs of the Year) awards ceremony. At the start of the session, the actual awards themselves, were not in the conference room where they needed to be. They were in a room upstairs in the hotel. The snag was that the room in question was locked. And the only person who we knew had a key was inside the room sleeping the sleep of the righteous – no doubt smilingly cuddling up to all our shiny BOTYs.

Posted in Something for the Weekend | Also tagged , , and | 32 Comments

Opinion: Liberal Democrats must stay true to our traditions post 2015

The period between now and the next general election in 2015 will be crucial in deciding the immediate future of the Liberal Democrats-but the post general election period will have a much longer term significance. I have long been one of those Liberal Democrats who believe that the word ’Liberal’ has been a little to silent in the party name – as policies around goldfish at fairs and ever increasing public spending without corresponding accountability have cast the party a long way from the roots developed by Beveridge, Keynes and Gladstone.

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Book review: William Gladstone – New Studies & Perspectives

Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and William Ewart Gladstone, giants of the nineteenth century, were all born in 1809 yet as Frank M Turner argues in this collection of essays Darwin and Lincoln are much better remembered today. I am sure this is true even for Liberal Democrats. In the final essay, Eugenio Biagini reflects on a 1992 Economist front cover describing Gladstone as ‘A prophet of the Left’. Gladstone’s legacy has been appropriated by Thatcherites who over simplify the Victorian Liberal view of the roles of government and private enterprise. …

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Opinion: Clegg should look to Gladstone and Grimond, not John Lewis

Nick Clegg’s Mansion House speech on “a more responsible capitalism” gathered publicity, particularly for his widely-reported call for employees to be given the right to ask for shares in the company they work for. I am still puzzling over how people can be given a right they already have. Anyone can ask for shares at present, of course, but with no guarantee of an answer.

It would be meant something if Nick had called for employees to have the right to be given shares in their companies when they asked.   It would have meant even more if he could have …

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Nick Clegg’s speech to LibDem Conference

During Liberal Democrat conference someone watching it from home texted me: “I now know what the Lib Dems are against – bankers, top rate taxpayers, tax cheats generally, overpaid directors and energy companies But, with the single exception of gay marriage, I’ve got no idea what the Lib Dems are for.”

Some will – rightly – quibble over the ‘against’ list in that but the essential point is a fair one. Liberal Democrat conference has been a lot about what won’t happen or isn’t the case: the coalition isn’t going to end early, the Liberal Democrats are not the same as …

Posted in Conference | Also tagged , , , , , and | 16 Comments

Office of Tax Simplification quotes Star Trek and recommends ending relief for a tax rule that no longer exists

At the time the Conservatives announced their plans for an Office of Tax Simplification it looked to me like a good exception to the general policy of cutting quangoes. Its major report into tax reliefs looks to have justified that belief – because the Office of Tax Simplification has discovered that far more tax reliefs exist than it was expecting.

Yup, you read that right – that tax system is so complicated it turned out to be even more complicated than people who already thought it was complicated expected. Or in its language:

We found 1,042 reliefs,allowances and exemptions; far more than any of our initial estimates.

The OTS’s report also has the distinction of starting its foreword with a quote from Star Trek, even if by Chapter 1 it is back on to more familiar tax quotation grounds with William Gladstone.

The big stories from the review are:

During the review, a number of key themes have emerged:

  • Merging income tax and NIC – this is a long term project of structural reform thatwould deliver major simplification;
  • Employee benefits and expenses – The longer term aim would be to align the treatment of employee benefits, with shorter term aims of simplifying many minorbenefits with a de minimis limit of £100/£500, or amending the current £8,500threshold;
  • Inheritance tax and trusts – the reliefs for inheritance tax are integral to the policyand we consider that a more appropriate approach would be to review the tax as a whole;
  • Capital gains tax, particularly as applicable to companies –the capital gains systems for individuals and companies have drifted apart, with gains by individuals taxed at a lower rate than income to reflect inflation, whereas companies are still required to calculate indexation. Our aim would be to realign the treatments and simplify the tax, but as there are changes in relation to corporate capital gains expected in Finance Bill 2011, this is clearly a longer term project; and
  • Environmental taxes –Both landfill tax and aggregates levy should be reviewed, as both regimes contain basic charging provisions with numerous exemptions and it may be more appropriate to define what is caught rather than what is excluded.

In amongst the details are some great examples of just how much parts of the tax system is in need of simplification, such as the continuing tax break on the first 15pence (yes, pence) of the value of a luncheon voucher given by an employer to staff. As the review says,

The value of this relief has eroded since its introduction in 1946 and is outweighed by the time and cost in providing it.

My favourite, however, is the discovery that there is still a tax relief on the books for a tax rule that no longer exists:

Certain specified and certified instruments were exempt from £5 fixed stamp duty. As the fixed rate of duty was abolished in 2008, the policy rationale is no longer relevant and the relief  has no current application.

Yorkshire drinkers of obscure beer may wish to check section 4.37.

Office of Tax Simplication – Review of Tax Reliefs

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Which Way’s Up? The long-term future of the coalition

The rapid appearance since the formation of the Coalition of Conservative MP Nick Boles’s book Which Way’s Up? is a tribute to the speed with which Biteback turns round books – recognising that the previous slothful pace of much political publishing meant books were no longer able to capture the political weather. Boles’s book, by contrast, certainly does that and attracted immediate headlines about his support for a two-term coalition and for an electoral pact.

The heart of the book, however, is about policy rather than political tactics. Boles himself has long been a Conservative moderniser – “a Cameroon before …

Posted in Books and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments
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