Author Archives: Andy Briggs

Any Liberal government worth its salt would repeal the sugar tax

As the so-called ‘sugar tax’ comes into being, it’s worth remembering just how poor a piece of policy it is. The sugar tax is regressive, it is ineffective and it is illiberal; any Liberal government worth its salt would repeal it.

The pre-amble to the constitution of the Liberal Democrats commits the party to both the fundamental value of liberty and ensuring that no-one is enslaved by poverty, the sugar tax fails on both these counts.

First and foremost the sugar tax is illiberal. If we accept that philosopher John Stuart Mill’s ‘harm principle’, the idea that power should only be exerted over an individual against their will if it is to prevent harm to others, is a cornerstone of liberal thought, then quite clearly the sugar tax fails this test. The consumption of sugary drinks poses no threat of harm to others, and as such the state has no business attempting to reduce their use. Whilst you could argue that the ‘harm’ to others associated with the consumption of sugary drinks is the additional strain this may put on the health service, if you were to follow this argument through to its logical conclusion you would advocate taxing gym memberships, as injury sustained through excessive exercise would too place a strain on the NHS. Clearly, this is nonsensical.

To add to this, not only is the sugar tax illiberal but it is also regressive, as it will disproportionally affect those on the lowest incomes. This is both because they are more likely to consume non-diet soft drinks than wealthier individuals, and also because tax rises such as this will take up a larger proportion of the poorest individual’s budgets. Evidence suggests that for individuals with a high sugar diet, taxes do little to reduce their consumption, and as such the sugar tax is all cost and no benefit to those whose disposable income is already low. Far from lifting people out of poverty, the sugar tax further condemns them to it.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 49 Comments

Why Lib Dem members were right to reject a “progressive alliance”

At Spring Conference in Southport last weekend, Liberal Democrat members from across the party came together to back an amendment submitted by Liberal Reform members to the party’s strategy motion, removing a reference to a “progressive alliance of ideas”.

Liberal Reform organised this amendment not because we are against working across party lines, but because we saw this as a clear first step on the slippery slope towards a formal electoral pact. There is a general understanding that this is what has come to be meant by the term “progressive alliance”: in a publication by pressure group Compass entitled “What Is The Progressive Alliance?” there is talk of “electoral deals and tactical voting”, whilst a post for the Social Liberal Forum (whose Chair spoke against the amendment) blog on “The Progressive Alliance” discusses non-Conservative parties standing down in order to avoid “long periods of Conservative domination.”

Posted in Op-eds | 34 Comments

The consequences of ruling out post-election deals

Back when the election was called, ruling out post-election deals with any other party seemed wise. The Tories were set to win a convincing majority, so we could promise tactical voters there would be no unforeseen consequences of a Lib Dem vote, safe in the knowledge that a hung parliament would not arise. What happened next is well documented; the Conservatives lost their majority and now have to rely on a confidence and supply deal with the DUP in order to remain in government.

This week we have seen the full extent of the DUP’s newfound power, as they hold Theresa May to ransom over her handling of Brexit negotiations. But could that, and perhaps should that, be us? At the very least, the parliamentary arithmetic adds up. Instead of being considered by many as an irrelevance, right now the Liberal Democrats could be the ones causing the government a headache; demanding membership of the single market and customs union, even potentially a referendum on the final deal, in return for our support. The extent to our influence would not be limited to Brexit, but would also include issues such as NHS funding, housing supply and public sector pay. Whilst it could be argued that the Conservatives would never agree to our demands, in truth we can never know, as we refused to even negotiate. Instead we left the Tories with the option of a deal with the DUP, a party so unpalatable that even backbench Tory MPs were horrified at the thought. When they’re not rallying against abortion or same-sex marriage the DUP are pressing for a version of Brexit so extreme that it puts the peace and prosperity of Northern Ireland at risk. It seems hard to argue that a Conservative/Lib Dem deal could have served the country’s interests much worse.

Posted in News | Tagged | 79 Comments

TfL’s Uber decision is no victory for liberalism

The decision taken by Transport for London to revoke Uber’s licence undermines a key theme of Vince Cable’s speech from just a few days ago, a belief in competitive markets. Whilst the company has only operated in the capital for a relatively short time, the benefits it has bought to London’s transport market for both Londoners and tourists alike have been numerous. Uber not only provides a cheaper, more accessible transport solution to its customers, but it has also forced its competitors to innovate, an example being black cabs now accepting card payments, freeing their users from having to carry large amounts of cash. If the Liberal Democrats are to be a proud champion of enterprise, the party should feel no shame in its support for companies such as Uber, which provide choice to consumers in what is otherwise a monopolistic market.

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 55 Comments
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