Author Archives: Tom Papworth

Hammond is right to break the Conservatives’ National Insurance pledge

Philip Hammond’s decision to raise National Insurance contributions (NICs) for self-employed people has been the most eye-catching and controversial aspect of the budget. No less captivating for a Liberal Democrat has been our party’s response. Lib Dems are understandably keen to hammer the Tories for breaking a manifesto promise. And MPs have been quick to paint themselves as the defenders of entrepreneurs and small business people (though patronising them as “White van man” is probably unwise).

For all that, the Chancellor’s policy is right – though it goes only a tiny way to treating all workers equally and fairly. Let us look first at the tax break and then deal with some objections.

  • Employees pay class 1 national insurance at 12% on earnings from £155 to £877 a week and 2% on earnings above that. The weekly sums are supposed to equate to £8,060 and £43,000 a year.
  • Employers also pay 13.8% on top of what the employee pays. Despite the myth that “employers pay” and that this comes out of profits, this is a tax on employed people’s wages. This is the biggest part of the injustice in the tax system and the chancellor has not touched it.
  • Self-employed people pay class 4 national insurance at 9% on profits between £8,060 and £43,000 and 2% on profits above £43,000.
  • Self-employed people also pay class 2 national insurance at a flat rate of £2.80 a week if they earn over £5,965 a year. So silly is this policy that George Osborne killed it (from April 2018). Interestingly, as part of that it was announced that class 4 national insurance would be increased to compensate, so there is some cover for Mr Hammond’s move.
  • Those incorporated as companies are able to take their income as dividends rather than salary, and so avoid NICs altogether.
Posted in News | Tagged and | 18 Comments

The problem with Neoliberalism

One rarely gets far in a debate about liberal philosophy or policy before somebody decries ‘neoliberalism’. This much-used term acts as a handy catch-all for every aspect of liberalism with which the commentator disagrees. And its use is likely to be met by two responses: large numbers of people will pile in to agree that ‘neoliberalism’ is terrible, while those who defend the idea under discussion will deny that it is ‘neoliberal’. This is because commentators use ‘neoliberalism’ like Justice Potter Stewart uses hardcore pornography: they don’t attempt to define it, but they feel they know it when …

Posted in Op-eds | 59 Comments

The Lib Dems’ problem in a nutshell

On Thursday the ASI published an article I wrote about the Labour leadership election and the concept of Expressive Voting. This theory, developed by Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky in their book Democracy and Decision: the pure theory of electoral preference, offers a new explanation for the “paradox of voting”, the rationality-defying fact that people vote despite the improbability that their vote will make a difference.

Brennan and Lomasky suggest that individuals do not vote primarily to affect the outcome (which they know they cannot) but to express a preference; indeed, to express themselves. Much as we might shout at a football match on television or curse out loud when on our own, there is something inherent in the human psyche that wishes to express its opinion. What is more, the way in which we express ourselves helps define who we are, and enables us to feel good about ourselves.

As I explained in my article:

The crucial point here is that there is absolutely zero cost to expressing oneself any way one pleases at the ballot box, because one’s vote is hardly likely to matter. For the same reason, the only tangible benefit one is likely to reap from voting is that feeling one gets for choosing “the right” candidate. Vote Labour and you are a caring person; vote Conservative and you are a responsible person; vote UKIP and you are a proud patriot; vote Green and you want to save our planet…

What struck me as I wrote those words was that I could not give a simple reason why people vote Liberal Democrat.

Posted in News | Tagged | 95 Comments

The Independent View: The Liberal case for airport expansion is strong

Centre Forum aviationThe debate over airport expansion, particularly in the South East, has been raging for decades. Later this year, it is due to reach a crucial moment as Howard Davies and the Airports Commission publish their final report. Ahead of this, CentreForum has published a report looking at the liberal case for aviation and explaining how genuine concerns over environmental challenges, noise and regional growth should be addressed.

Though not directly concerned with Liberal Democrat policy, the report does raise questions over the wisdom of the party’s current position.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged , , , , and | 40 Comments

Opinion: Fiscal consolidation and the Liberal Democrats

Newly minted coins by James Cridland
Over the past few days, questions have emerged about the Liberal Democrats’ proposals for fiscal consolidation. Liberal Reform felt it would therefore be helpful to clarify what the challenges are, to explain how some of the figures are derived and to help people understand what the scale of the problem is.

Which deficit are we cutting and how much does it cost?

All three political parties have committed to eliminating the budget deficit over the next parliament. There are two things that divide the parties, however:

  • The speed of the consolidation – in what year will the budget be balanced
  • The definition of the “budget deficit.”

The Liberal Democrats have committed to eliminate the budget deficit by 2018-19. The Labour Party have postponed consolidation to 2020 and the Conservatives are being vague about when in the next parliament the budget will balance. The Lib Dems position reflects current government plans.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 33 Comments

The Independent View: “I’m a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration” says Clegg

Nick CleggOn Tuesday, in a speech in Manor House in north London, Nick Clegg gave a major speech on immigration. Like the immigration speech he gave last year, hosted by CentreForum, his recent speech will be hotly debated and greatly misrepresented.

The speech was clearly an attempt to provide reassurance to the British public that the Lib Dems wanted a fair immigration system that enabled “the brightest and the best” to come to work and study in the UK but was robust in stamping out cheating and abuse. Nick believes this is important because:

… being a nation at ease with diversity and difference does not happen by accident. Successful immigration systems have to be managed. People need to see that they are good for society as a whole. Otherwise all you do is create fear and resentment – you give populists an open goal.

Posted in The Independent View | Tagged , and | 15 Comments

Opinion: A letter to a constituent regarding equal marriage

The following is the text of an email that I sent to a constituent earlier today. He wrote to me to ask about my views of the government’s proposals “to re-define marriage”, which he believes “will have far-reaching consequences… will have an adverse effect on the stability and flourishing of our local community.” I beg to differ.

Dear sir,

Thank you for your email regarding the government’s proposals to change the law on marriage in the United Kingdom. This is not a local authority matter, and so has no relevance to my role as a local councillor. However, as you have asked to know my views on this matter, I am happy to oblige.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 32 Comments

Opinon: Planning for a brighter future

Yesterday, I set out the indictment of our current land-use planning system, which has created a housing crisis, is stifling our economy and leading to damaging environmental outcomes. That’s fairly widely acknowledged. It is far less simple to propose an alternative, but below I hope to outline some possible principles as mechanisms for a better planning system that empowers individuals and communities rather than bureaucrats and politicians.

The first thing we need to do is to restore the principle that those who suffer the secondary effects of development are compensated. The original Town and Country Planning Act (1947) did contain provision …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 13 Comments

Opinion: the ongoing disaster of British land-use planning

Britain’s planning system is generally defended on environmental grounds. Yet far from keepingBritain“green and pleasant”, the Town and Country Planning Acts have led to the creation of dormitory towns, required the building of extensive infrastructure, and have increased urban density at the expense of urban green space.

In a new report released by the Adam Smith Institute, I argue that we need to do away with the old, top-down planning system. In this first article, I will lay out the indictment of the system. Tomorrow, I will make some proposals for how we can liberate the land and empower individuals …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 24 Comments

Opinion: I’d rather be boring than bonkers

Monday night’s Channel 4’s coverage of the Liberal Democrat conference ended with Michael Crick interviewing Ann Treneman and Michael White about the general feel amongst Lib Dems.

Among the usual sniping from a reactionary sketch-writer and the doyen of the urban intellectual elite came a lament that the Liberal Democrat conference did not feel like a Liberal Democrat conference. People were too on message, they moaned; there was not enough rebellion; nor enough eccentricity. Michael White in particular bemoaned the absence of beards and sandals. Lib Dem conference, they felt, had become boring.

Too right.

We are not in the 1970s, when …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 23 Comments

Opinion: Stephen Williams is right to support the criminalisation of squatting

It’s always a pleasure to see a Liberal Democrat MP standing up for our core liberal values. And among the core principles of liberalism, private ownership of property is of huge importance.

So it’s truly gratifying to see that Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West, is taking a stand to protect owners of property from being dispossessed. Stephen has given his support to legislation, to be brought before parliament by the government, to criminalise squatting.

This is highly welcome and long overdue. Squatting has for too long been portrayed as a victimless crime, a Robin Hood grab …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 34 Comments

Meme: The Great Repeal Bill should seek to abolish…

The Liberal Democrats called it The Freedom Bill. The Tories called it The Great Repeal Bill – and there are more of them in the government, so they will probably win the competition to name it.

Nonetheless, the aim is clear: to slough off the dead skin of government; to deliver us from regulatory evil.

And in a novel (and perhaps suspect) twist, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has promised that it will be up to the public to propose legislation for the chop. I have yet to be convinced!

But …

Posted in News | Tagged | 15 Comments

Opinion: Cold comfort for the Lib Dems in the dawn of the new politics

On Thursday night we saw the dynamics of the New Politics unfold.

For the first time, advocates of the Lib-Con pact came face to face with opponents and the general public in a very public forum. On Question Time, Simon Hughes MP and Lord Heseltine defended the new government against a tirade of abuse from Lord Falconer, Mehdi Hasan and Melanie Phillips, while the audience expressed exasperation and dismay. Get used to it. This is the New Politics, and if Cameron and Clegg are to be believed, this is what we have to look forward to …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 21 Comments

Opinion: Clegg half-way there on tax cuts

The Liberal Democrats made a significant step forward at their Conference last week when we passed the Make It Happen policy paper.

The main issue of the debate revolved around Nick Clegg’s pledge to cut billions of pounds from the income tax of low and middle income families. The party has broadly welcomed this, though many have accepted it only as long as it is accompanied by a promise that the overall tax-take will remain the same, and that richer people should shoulder more of the tax burden.

This redistributionist error was sadly reinforced by Clegg himself in an …

Posted in Op-eds and Party policy and internal matters | Tagged | 34 Comments

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