Conference: Make It Happen debate… the live-blog

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Yes, it’s the day of the Big Debate on Make It Happen, the party’s policy and consultation document, and there’s keen anticipation here in the conference hall. Over 100 members have applied to speak so far, so we can expect some fiery views on both sides of the should-we-cut-the-tax-burden debate.

The party’s manifesto chief Danny Alexander has introduced Make It Happen – plenty of warm applause, including for the line that tax cuts for ordinary people are very much part of a social justice agenda. He urges conference to vote down Paul Holmes’ and Evan Harris’s amendment, arguing it will undo all of the good of Make It Happen.

He’s followed by Paul Holmes who’s moving the amendment to Make It Happen, noting that he agrees with almost all of it but urging conference not to vote for a cut in the overall tax level when there are so many needs for investment in public services. His passionate peroration gets a rousing reception.

Mike German, outgoing Welsh Lib Dem leader, is up next supporting Make It Happen: “I don’t want bigger government; I want bigger people”. It’s lucky he’s not leading the Liliputians.

Richard Grayson speaks for the amendment, stressing that it calls simply for public investment to be placed ahead of tax cuts. Now Graham Watson, leader of the Lib Dem MEPs, stresses the impact the Lib Dem tax cuts will have on ordinary people, those “struggling to put food on the table, or pay for their children’s school clothes”. (Incidentally, Alix-of-the-People’s-Republic will be pleased to hear Graham stress people, not families). Then the sneaky part – Graham explicitly links defeat of the amendment to support of Vince the Superhero.

We have two lords now: Lord Roger Roberts, in favour of the amendment, who reveals he’s responding to the very many text messages he’s had expressing dismay with the party’s tax-cutting agenda; and then Lord Tom McNally, who argues that tax-cutting is in the social democratic mould. Lord McNally also uses the Back-Vince-or-else line: “there’s no point giving Vince a standing ovation in the morning if you’re going to kick away the plank from underneath him in the afternoon.” Some cheering for this.

[Apologies, teh internets is on-the-blink here in the LDV Cupboard, so I missed a couple of speakers. Let me assure you they made jolly good speeches on both sides of the argument. Incidentally, the applause for those moving the amendment is markedly more lukewarm since the Vince Pincer movement of Graham Watson and Lord McNally.]

Jo Swinson is up now, speaking from the floor rather than the platform, earning kudos for ‘ordinary memberiness’; repeats the Make It Happen arguments that tax cuts for low earners is a practical way of addressing social justic problems.

[I’m not live-blogging the interventions from the floor, by the way, because BBC Parliament doesn’t flash up their correctly-spelled names, and I don’t want to commit any faux pas. Suffice to say they’re evenly balanced – though all those in favour of the amendment have their own ideas of how the £20 billion of spending cuts could be spent… which is sort of the problem when you start raising taxes: when do you stop?]

[Oh, interesting – Vince Cable has been called to speak. It’s clear the leadership wants to win this one. The Vince Pincer earlier wasn’t enough: now we get Vince himself to coax and convince.]

Duncan Brack is now up arguing for the amendment, making the not-unreasonable point that announcing tax-cuts before you’ve worked out how they will be funded through spending cuts, and asking how that increases the party’s credibility. Of course, the answer to our credibility gap is… Vince. Speaking of whom…

Vince Cable gets up, a conference hall swoons… “Millions of voters are saying to us, ‘We just want a bit more freedom.'” Vince argues you can’t spell out in detail the spending cuts now with which we’ll go into the general election. He concludes with a clarion call to oppose the amendment. The Hall simultaneously orgasms.

Richard Younger-Ross: “forget the Cameron-effect, have journalists not heard of the ‘Clegg effect’… we’ll gain seats in the north and we’ll gain seats in the south under Clegg’s leadership and with Make It Happen”. Argues that care for the elderly and scrapping tuition fees must come before tax cuts.

Tim Farron puts forward, forcibly, the argument that tax cuts for the poor is about social justice, and notes that a woman in his constiuency on £7k pays £2k in tax. “Labour tax cuts have always been about comforting the comfortable, ours are about lifting the poorest out of poverty”. I’m discovering today what those who attended the rally on Sunday learned: Tim Farron is a terrific speaker. We should hear more from him, I feel.

Chris Huhne: “Helping the hard-pressed, by whatever means, has always been our mission” – a deeply intellectual, well-thought-through speech. Interesting international comparison: he’d happily vote for tax-cuts as a Swedish liberal, and vote to increase them as an American liberal.

Evan Harris is winding-up in favour of the amendment, and starts off with an ice-breaking joke: “Nick you needn’t worry… too much.” He makes a nice point that, under a devolutionary Lib Dem government, the proponents of Make It Happen are arguing for local government spending cuts: “good luck to those of you want to campaign on that platform”. Conference knows what to expect from Evan: a barn-storming, wit-infused speech of passion. Evan knows what to expect from Conference: he’ll be on the losing side.

Simon Hughes, arguing for Make It Happen’s adoption as president of the party and chair of the federal policy committee, notes how the new policies will distinguish us from Tories – whose only announced tax-cuts are for double-millionaires with large estates, and stamp tax on shares: how’s that for helping out ordinary people? Simon sums up the Make It Happen tax message pretty simply: “If you’re very rich you’ll pay more; if you’re not, you’ll pay less.”

The speeches are over, now time for the vote. (You have to be sitting down in the conference hall to vote, I’m afraid: bad luck for those sitting down comfortably in front of their computers).

Result of card vote:

** The amendment is “clearly defeated”. ** (Though not “clearly” defeated if you’re watching BBC Parliament, which decided not to show the delegates in the hall at this point).

** Make It Happen is passed overwhelmingly, with only “a very few” against **

In truth, the result was never really in doubt. Compared with two years ago, when the Lib Dem conference voted to ditch its commitment to the 50p tax-rate for top earners, the switch to proposing overall tax-cuts targeted at the poorest has not exercised Lib Dem activists over-much. Now all we have to do is let the public know what Make It Happen is all about.

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143 Comments

  • Peter Bancroft 15th Sep '08 - 4:04pm

    Vince is on fire.

    There have been a few really good contributions, and some pretty odd ones. Elaine Baghshaw for Liberal Youth didn’t do the organisation any harm by being more eloquent than most of the MPs either.

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Sep '08 - 4:16pm

    Listening to this debate you’d think we were talking about tax cuts of 15p not probably 1-2!

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Sep '08 - 4:28pm

    “the argument that tax cuts for the poor is about social justice, and notes that a woman in his constiuency on £7k pays £2k in tax.”

    How? The only way I can think this could happen is because of council tax (CT benefit either not being claimed or she is not eligible because of savings.

    She would benefit massively from our plans for LIT to replace Council Tax – but that isn’t really an issue today.

    Certainly a person on £7k would pay a income tax of 20% on about £1 so (ie about £200) and would consequently get little benefit from any income tax cuts (about £10 for each 1p of the basic rate)

    I suspect Tim may have been using an emotive example that wasn’t really related to the issue under debate.

  • Some very good arguments being made on both sides, but I must say that having looked at both and having listened to the whole debnate the admentment is better then the original.

    The only problem is that if it is passed it will be viewed in the media as a major defeat for Nick Clegg which I don’t believe is the case

  • Never thought I’d be a member of a party which proposed tax cuts. Not 100% sure what I think about this just now – just feels very uncomfortable…

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 4:41pm

    “Conference further resolves that any reduction in overall levels of public expenditure should be a lower priority than measures to reduce inequality in British society, improving public services, including in particular health, education, child care and public transport, and making the urgent investments needed to tackle accelerating climate change.”

    Thank you for posting the text, which I hadn’t actually seen.

    So now it’s official – cutting taxes is a higher priority for the party than reducing inequality and tackling climate change.

    At least it’s useful to have that made clear.

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Sep '08 - 4:49pm

    The “Farron woman” could also be paying NI – but that would only be up to maybe another £100.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 4:49pm

    Paul Walter:
    “Clegg’s Candid Friend(the Tory trolls are out already) – you’ve reversed the meaning of the quote you muppet!”

    ?

    What on earth are you talking about?

  • Media Misanthrope 15th Sep '08 - 4:52pm

    I’m not clear on what this means, can someone please clarify the clarification in simple bulletpoints.

  • Clearly we are a properly liberal decentralising party (except that our dear leader and front bench team thinks a bit more centralisation will balance the current emphasis on local grass-roots and provide a counterweight to the right-left split)?

    So multipolar unchaos out of bipolar disorder then?

  • Are you talking opportuities or outcomes, Laurence?

  • It would be interesting to see a list of speakers each way; my impression is that [shockingly for a radical antiestablishment chappie like me] the leadership’s team may outweigh the antis from my perspective!

    And very nice to gather that there was a balance of pro/anti speakers – unlike a certain debate at Llandudno 1981 !!!!!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 5:40pm

    Paul Walter:
    “But hang on – just because an amendment is rejected you can’t say that we reject all that was in the amendment.”

    There was, essentially, only the single sentence quoted above in the amendment.

    Just about the one virtue of this, as far as I’m concerned, is that despite all the fudging and contradictory statements over the past few days, the party has finally made a clear and overwhelming decision on a matter of principle.

  • CCF – please can you tell us what ‘clear and overwhelming decision’ was made on which ‘matter of principle’?

    I thought this was a matter of strategic policy, not principle.

    We are neither ideological ‘big-staters’ or ‘tax-cutters’ and we remain liberal – in fact this shows we are – so what are you talking about?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 6:58pm

    Oranjepan

    Clearly, that cutting taxes is a higher priority than reducing inequality and tackling climate change.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Sep '08 - 8:35pm

    Well, not surprisingly Vince Cable has got his way (it would have happened anyway but the blatant rigging of the conference aqenda was indeed a disgrace). I listened to his long speech (but not the debate) and the underlying dishonesty of his argument is astonishing (if very competently done).

    The message to the country is all about tax-cuts and the party standing on its head (just see the news bulletins this evening) which (it is thought, wrongly in my view) will help to win middle-class seats in the south by outflanking the Tories on the right. But the message to the party is all about social justice, cutting taxes for poor people. Of course that has to be done and the present taxation of the poor is a shocking disgrace but of course it can be done by redistributing the tax take not by the inevitable cuts in public services which the Cable mantra will produce.

    So you dishonestly get the conference to vote for right-wing Tory policies by tickling their radical progressive tummies.

    What is scandalous (and the second major dishonesty – and a huge political hostage for the future) is claiming to be able to cut £20billion (more than just a bob or two) from public spending without setting out a costed means of doing it. Or even giving a clear list of things that have been properly worked out. Again just an appeal to the conference’s prejudices on things like quangos and waste.

    Cable and the collection of right-wing “economic liberals” who have been given influence in the party are leading us into a political cul-de-sac and (in my view) probable electoral disaster. It is a repudiation of the coalition of voters who have been built up behind the Liberal Democrats in the past ten years and some of them might just notice.

    Sooner or later (possibly sooner) there will have to be people around to pick up the pieces.

    No-one denies that Cable is an expert on the economy, that he knows more about it than most people, and that he is brilliant at communicating complex ideas in a clear and understandable way. But that does not make him right. (Thatcher had the third of these skills to perfection).

    He may (to use an ancient quote from another era) be a brilliant dessicated calculating machine. Unfortunately his personal arrogance and obsession with the technical details of the economy seem to mean that too often he doesn’t see the bigger political picture. I do think the party will come to regret allowing him to lead it by the nose on these matters.

    Meanwhile if as Paul Walter says “the party has finally made a clear and overwhelming decision on a matter of principle” there will be a lot of us who decide to take an overseas holiday when the next General Election comes round.

    Tony Greaves

  • Hywel Morgan 15th Sep '08 - 8:55pm

    Vince’s credibility must be monumental if he could manage to get away with the “we’ll make well paid public sector employees reapply for their jobs at lower pay” without being completely ridiculed.

  • CCF, the two are completely different policy areas so what your comment is a basic misrepresentation of the actual status.

    Our priority remains good liberal politics and that encompasses all different subjects even if the focus of daily debate continues to shift – all of us remain fully committed to securing our shared futures, whether than means environmentally, financially or socially. There is no contradiction, only a balance.

    Tony, I’m sure we will all miss your assistance as every pair of hands and legs is invaluable to aiding the cause of liberalism, and I’m sure you fully understand how ongoing dissent degrades the constructiveness of any contributions. However, I must question your interpretation of what honesty means and your exaggerated claims for the unfairness of any influence exerted through the progress of this debate – your belated entrance into discussions here smack of bitterness rather than any commitment to engagement with the issues.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 9:27pm

    Conference rejected an amendment proposing that cutting spending [i.e. taxes] should be a lower priority than reducing inequality and tackling global warming.

    The implication is obvious. Why on earth can’t people have the honesty to admit it?

    And talking of dishonesty, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was nauseated by the sight of speaker after speaker invoking the plight of the poor in order to justify what Clegg has described as “the most radical package of tax- cutting measures for people on middle incomes”.

    When the cuts in public spending and the switch to indirect taxation are actually going to make life harder for the poorest, who pay little or no tax, and will get little or no benefit from tax cuts!

  • Surely, CCF, as the party of equality all our priorities are equal.

    I think your emotional reaction says several things – firstly, that implications recieved are determined by personal bias, secondly, that it is extremely difficult to convince people who allow themselves to be swung by prejudice, and thirdly, that we still have much work to do improving the way we get factual messages across even to some of our own audience.

  • Paul Griffiths 15th Sep '08 - 9:48pm

    Is it not possible that as well as rejecting the amendment, Conference also rejected its premise?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 10:04pm

    Oranjepan

    Why not – just for once in your life – try to put up a logical argument in support of your position, instead of just attacking the people who disagree with you?

    Can you explain how cutting the basic rate of income tax benefits someone who doesn’t pay income tax? Do you not agree that increasing indirect taxation is going to worsen the situation of that person?

  • CCF, that is not the full equation – you are not looking at the full package of proposals.

    For someone who doesn’t currently pay income tax, shifting Council Tax to LIT will lift a huge burden from their shoulders and wholly outweigh any tinkering with differential rates of indirect taxation by a large and disproportionate extent.

    Now, I’m not fully signed up to LIT as the ‘final solution’ to funding local councils, but this new package is a massive step forward in trying to satisfy all groups simultaneously.

    I am also highly impressed by the thinking behind the ‘tax switch’ argument.

    In the past we have been derided for trying to escape the false dichotomy between the ‘tax ‘n’ spenders’ and ‘tax cutters’ by discussions of hypothecation or suchlike and have been bogged down by endless inconclusive discussions of how this restricts choice.

    The ‘tax switch’ idea forces us to look at budgeting differently – it is not just a question of the size of the budget, but also of looking at how and why we tax the things we do and how and why we fund initiatives.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Sep '08 - 10:53pm

    “Vince’s credibility must be monumental if he could manage to get away with the “we’ll make well paid public sector employees reapply for their jobs at lower pay” without being completely ridiculed.”

    He got clapped for saying this though even on the TV there was a sense of some embarrassment. It is of course completely bonkers. All public sector employees over £100,000 – how on earth would the government enforce that let alone get away with it? But it was part of the trick of tickling the conference’s left wing prejudices in order to get them to vote for a right-wing policy.

    As for “Oranjepan”, it may be that people here know who you are but I don’t. The difference between you and me is that I post under my own name and you post under a stupid nickname.

    “your belated entrance into discussions here smack of bitterness rather than any commitment to engagement with the issues.”

    So if I don’t spend my whole life reading this website and posting my views, I am not “committed to engaging with the issues” whatever that silly language means! I’m not sure what I have been doing these last 50 years!

    I don’t know who you are but you seem to me to be a bit of a prat!

    Tony Greaves

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 15th Sep '08 - 11:11pm

    “CCF, that is not the full equation – you are not looking at the full package of proposals.

    For someone who doesn’t currently pay income tax, shifting Council Tax to LIT will lift a huge burden from their shoulders …”

    That’s a complete red herring. The debate today had nothing to do with local income tax.

    It was a question of which should have higher priority – cutting taxes or spending to reduce inequality. The plight of the poor was continually invoked in favour of tax cuts, despite the fact that cutting income tax will do nothing to help those who don’t pay income tax!

    If the party wanted to help the poor, there would be much more efficient ways to target that help than by cutting the basic rate of income tax.

    But of course the whole point of this is not to help the poor, but to attract the support of middle-class voters in Lib Dem/Tory marginals.

  • Tony Greaves 15th Sep '08 - 11:18pm

    “For someone who doesn’t currently pay income tax, shifting Council Tax to LIT will lift a huge burden from their shoulders …”

    Probably not the case if they claim Housing Benefit on their council tax.

    “But of course the whole point of this is not to help the poor, but to attract the support of middle-class voters in Lib Dem/Tory marginals.”

    And this is one of the fallacies at the heart of the policy: it probably will not do so for a lot of them when the numbers are finally added up (the numbers necessary to do this and everything else are quite improbable) and even if it does, the effect of the policy is likely to lose the support of progressive LD voters without gaining Cameron Tories in any numbers.

    Tony Greaves

  • Nice one Tony, I’m so glad you took the time out of your long and dutiful service to respond so politely and constructively.

    Since when does it matter who you are when the substance of what you say is what is at stake?

    CCF, I agree that this wasn’t in the formal debate in the conference hall, but nevertheless it isn’t a red herring.

    This conference has been about professionalising our attitude towards our politics at every level.

    There is a serious political gambit being played by TeamClegg in which we are unfortunately but necessarily calculating that the potential gains from deliberately stimulating a fight between the dinosaurs (like Tony) and reformers (the Orange bookers) are greater than playing safe with traditionally safe assumptions on issues like tax, for example.

    If this means we have to deploy dual messages and sacrifice clarity in putting the liberal case then we must accept the challenge and step up to the plate.

    Either we are reformers who are prepared to reform ourselves or we will wither away in the winds of political fortune.

  • Oh, and personally I think there is more electoral traction to be had among non-voters than middle-class swingers. I think we are starting to address this point.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 12:10am

    “If this means we have to deploy dual messages and sacrifice clarity in putting the liberal case then we must accept the challenge and step up to the plate.”

    Judged by his performance over the last few days, “deploying dual messages and sacrificing clarity” is Nick Clegg’s natural forte.

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Sep '08 - 12:28am

    I do not think that income tax cuts will make a great deal of difference to many of the poorest, who do not pay it, and it would be better to cut regressive taxes like VAT. I will watch for more detailed proposals, but at the moment, after 25 years as a member of this party and its predecessors, as an ertswhile Cllr and Parliamentary Candidate, I am now seriously considering where my future loyalties will lie. I have been relatively inactive during the past year, mostly for personal reasons, but also because I have become increasingly worried by some of the nonsense promulgated by the new leader. I am now so concerned that I have resolved definitely to not campaign for the party at all until after the next election. I will maintain my membership/voting rights until then, and review the political situation at that point, before deciding whether to remain a supporter, or support/join another party. Ironically, I will probably vote Liberal Democrat, since we are closest to the Tories in my constituency.
    Incidentally, Tony – the folk who hide behind stupid names are probably those who wish to stand for Parliament. They remain anonymous on fora like this for fear their right wing views will alienate a sizeable number of the members who (for the moment) still select candidates in our party.

  • David Allen 16th Sep '08 - 8:15am

    I resign my position as Chairman of Rushcliffe Liberal Democrats with immediate effect.

    I did not join the Lib Dems to kid people that money grows on trees, and that Nick Clegg is the new Santa Claus.

    I did not join the Lib Dems to dismantle public services and return them to the state that John Major left them in.

    I did not join the Lib Dems to set up a two-tier health service where the rich buy the drugs they need and the poor die.

    I have loyally served under five leaders of honesty, integrity and principle: Roy Jenkins, David Steel, Paddy Ashdown, Charles Kennedy and Ming Campbell. The sequence has been broken.

    Wake up Lib Dems. If you are not ashamed of what you have done, you should be.

  • The notion that the poor would not gain from a cut in the starting rate of income tax is absurd. Has anyone advancing such an argument ever actually been poor? Income tax kicks in once you’re earning a little over £110 per week which is a little over 20 hours at minimum wage. A person working full time (or in two part-time jobs etc.) at minimum wage would therefore be paying income tax on almost half of their total income. These are people who are either officially in income poverty or only just above it and a long way short of the average income. Cutting taxes is no panacea, but it does help.

    Tony Greaves wrote:

    “For someone who doesn’t currently pay income tax, shifting Council Tax to LIT will lift a huge burden from their shoulders …”

    Probably not the case if they claim Housing Benefit on their council tax.

    You don’t claim housing benefit on your council tax. You claim council tax benefit on your council tax. I have to admit that I don’t have the precise sums to hand, but I’m working from first-hand experience a few years ago when I say that council tax benefit does not cover the entire council tax bill and is allocated separately from the housing benefit which is designed to cover rent and other housing costs. If LIT eliminated council tax, council tax benefit could be abolished and still leave the person/family concerned better off by not having to pay that portion of their council tax bill not covered by the benefit.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 9:41am

    “The notion that the poor would not gain from a cut in the starting rate of income tax is absurd. Has anyone advancing such an argument ever actually been poor? Income tax kicks in once you’re earning a little over £110 per week which is a little over 20 hours at minimum wage. A person working full time (or in two part-time jobs etc.) at minimum wage would therefore be paying income tax on almost half of their total income.”

    So suppose we put £5bn into tax cuts, and reduced the basic rate of income tax by (say) another 1p. What does that do for such a person? I reckon it makes them better off by about £1 a week.

    Deep tax cuts aimed at the poor? Don’t make me laugh!

    If you really wanted to benefit the poor, you could target the money directly at them in any number of ways, rather than spraying them across Clegg’s 80-90% of the population. And you could target some of the money at those who don’t pay tax at all. If you targeted £5bn at (say) the poorest 10% of the population, it would make them something like £1000 a year better off.

    That’s the kind of thing you’d do if you had the real burning concern about poverty that was simulated in the debate yesterday. But this isn’t about poverty. It’s about trying to sucker in middle-class voters with promises of painless tax cuts and cost-free public services.

  • Alix Mortimer 16th Sep '08 - 9:51am

    Terry Gilbert:

    “I do not think that income tax cuts will make a great deal of difference to many of the poorest, who do not pay it”

    Can we please nail this? You start paying tax above earnings of (this year) £6,035, and National Insurance on even less. Many people who are “poor” by any standard you care to use *do* pay tax.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 9:56am

    Alix:
    “Can we please nail this? You start paying tax above earnings of (this year) £6,035, and National Insurance on even less. Many people who are “poor” by any standard you care to use *do* pay tax.”

    Did you not read what the poster wrote?

    (1) He wasn’t talking about all of the poor, but many of them.

    (2) He didn’t say the people in question didn’t pay tax, or even that they didn’t pay income tax. He said income tax cuts wouldn’t make a great deal of different to them.

    Do you really think a cut of 1p from the basic rate of income tax would make “a great deal of difference” to someone on the minimum wage?

  • CCF: I don’t disagree with the notion of redistribution that you advocate, although I think your sums are a bit off and you don’t say how you would deal with withdrawal rates (what happens when people move just out of the bottom 10%).

    Personally I’d be happier with a more redistributive package. I’m intrigued by ideas like the ‘basic income’ or ‘negative income tax’ which would achieve something much closer to what you describe. I’m equally very dubious about the idea that spending money on government services helps us here, and that’s what I see the dividing line as being: who makes the spending decisions, government or people? Insofar as we can, I think that we want to put those decisions in the hands of individuals by cutting some central spending where we can. In the long term, I’d like to see that approach go further and closer to what you describe: directly putting resources into the hands of people who need them rather than spending it (allegedly) on their behalf. We’ve seen what happens when the government does that: they spend it on ID cards or Trident instead of the priorities of normal people and the only way to fix that is to put the money in the hands of people.

    I’m all for improving our policy platform and I think that there are plenty of opportunities for radical thought here. If there’s anything wrong with the debate in Bournemouth is that it draws from too few different ideas and doesn’t consider more radical approaches to redistribution. If we want to decentralise control properly then we have to cut the amount of money spent at Whitehall in order to create the fiscal space for local councils and, for that matter, individuals to spend on their more specific priorities. I happily admit that the current policy doesn’t really get us to where I’d like to be, but I think that it points in the right general direction.

  • Alix Mortimer 16th Sep '08 - 10:17am

    I agree, I think it’s far more likely that we raise the PA. I hope so anyway. Ideally the endpoint would be raising it to the NMW.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 10:20am

    Rob Knight:
    “I think your sums are a bit off”

    Obviously they’re very rough, but I don’t think they’re hugely off.

    Whatever the exact figures, the point is that the “vast bulk” (to use Clegg’s phrase) of any cut in the basic rate of income tax would go to the middle class, not the poor. That would also be true if the threshold were raised, though obviously that would be a bit more beneficial to the poor.

    Of course if something more redistributive were done that would be better, but I listened to most of the debate yesterday, as well as Cable’s speech, and I heard no hint that the tax cuts would be targeted specifically at the poor, despite all the hand-wringing about their plight.

    And of course the whole point of this is clearly to attract middle-class voters. Clegg has said that 80-90% of the population would benefit, and has described this as “the most radical package of tax- cutting measures for people on middle incomes”. And after all, the “green switch would go into reducing the rate of income tax, not anything more redistributive.

    It’s the hypocrisy that annoys me more than anything.

  • Alix Mortimer 16th Sep '08 - 10:23am

    CCF, what were your workings on the 1p/£1? And do we know that a cut in the basic rate would be the measure chosen to effect cuts?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 10:27am

    Mark Pack:
    “But Alix too was talking about “many” rather than “all”: “Many people who are “poor” by any standard you care to use *do* pay tax.”

    Where have you got the idea that Alix was talking about “all” from?”

    From the fact that she said she was “nailing” what the poster had written (the ugly implication being that it was a lie) by saying that “many” of the poor pay income tax.

    Unless the poster had implied none of them did, that obviously wouldn’t “nail” anything.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 10:37am

    “CCF, what were your workings on the 1p/£1?”

    Well, roughly speaking someone on the minimum wage would be paying tax on £5000-6000 of their income. I’m not a tax accountant, but I’d say that 1p off the basic rate of income tax would be worth £50-60 a year to them, which seems to be about £1 a week.

    But suppose we do raise the personal allowance. That means everyone paying income tax gets an equal share, unless it’s offset in some way. Suppose a quarter of this £20bn is handed out in this way. What will that amount to? Maybe £5 a week? The “vast bulk” again going to the middle class.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 10:44am

    Mark

    I don’t have time for this silliness, frankly.

    Alix misrepresented what the previous poster had said in two ways. I pointed that out.

    Naturally you come in on her side, and start accusing me of “misquoting” her. If I misquoted her, kindly repeat the part of my post where I did so. Otherwise please retract what you said.

  • Alix Mortimer 16th Sep '08 - 11:15am

    How did you arrive at the 1p? I’m not saying it’s wrong, I just don’t know how you did it.

    Raising the PA would have a greater effect than dropping the BR by a further penny. I’ve just done rough figures that throw up a decrease of only £40 a year for someone earning around £10,000 if you drop our existing cut from 16p to 15p.

    Using the £5bn for an increase in the PA in stead – and taking as a recent benchmark of £2.8bn paid out by Labour to raise the PA by £600 over and above the usual inflationary increase – we could estimate a £1,000 increase on the PA above inflation. This would leave the £10k earner more than £150 pa better off, which is much more of a step in the right direction.

    This is because raising the PA – while it does, as you say, benefit everybody – benefits disproportionately those who are not all the way through the basic rate. The less further your earnings slip into the basic rate, the less you will benefit from a basic rate cut, but the more you will proportionately benefit from a raise in the PA.

    Germane at this point to observe that I’m already on record as being disappointed that we didn’t reduce our basic rate cut and raise the PA instead. I’ll certainly not be happy if don’t use any further money to increase the PA, preferably to the NMW.

    However, I don’t see the fact that a raise in the PA would benefit everybody as a problem in the same way you do. This is a fairly key liberal point, to my mind. It’s economically illiberal to artificially meddle with a sliding scale. The gradient may need to be made steeper, but that’s another matter, and that’s what the tax package sets out to do.

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Sep '08 - 11:16am

    Julian H makes a good point – which is consistent with CCF’s calculations. This is why I will wait for detailed proposals (and to see what happens at the next election and beyond) before deciding whether or not I should go. Raising the income tax threshold, and more importantly, tapering the loss of unemployment benefits, as Brown has tried cack-handedly to do with tax credits for certain groups (mostly families) would do much more than a 1p cut in income tax.
    Those who voted for the amendment yesterday, or were tempted to do so and swayed at the last minute, should now be organising to put pressure on the party leadership to bring forward detailed proposals which are more acceptable. Amendments to conference motions are all very well, but it is inevitably too late, because defeating the platform ensures that the media protrays us as disunited; we must sharpen our focus and ensure that the leadership is too terrified to bring forward regressive changes for fear of defeat. Go to your AGM and elect conference reps who will vote for progressive taxes. I hope that people like David Allen will stay in the party and campaign for the progressive agenda.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 11:28am

    Alix:
    “However, I don’t see the fact that a raise in the PA would benefit everybody as a problem in the same way you do.”

    (I note your figure of £3 a week from raising the personal allowance is even less than my guess of £5 a week.)

    The point I’m making is simply that it was dishonest to sell these tax cuts as a means of helping the poor when the vast bulk of the money would go to the middle class (whether it was done through reducing the basic rate or raising the personal allowance).

    The benefit to low earners would be small, and the benefit to those not paying income tax would be nil.

    And remember that these people would be hit disproportionately by the intended shift to indirect taxation and – unless we could achieve the miracle of painless economies, which has eluded every government in living memory – by public spending cuts.

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Sep '08 - 11:30am

    Alix – you seem to be one of the few open minded people here!
    Clegg has been on the news repeatedly over the last couple of days saying £20bn in savings from scrapping a couple of departments, the ‘bulk’ of which goes towards our spending commitments. Whatever is left goes to tax cuts. I think £5bn is the roughly the figure necessary for a 1p across the board income tax cut. It is certainly in the right ballpark, from memory. At most it would be £10bn or 2p in the pound – even a 4p cut would only save the poorest £4 a week. Of course it would save higher earners rather more, as they pay tax on more of their income. The more you pay the more you save. We must start pressing NOW for a fairer way to be brought forward at the next conference. Our leaders are democratically accountable, and they must be in no doubt about the mood of the party by the time of the next conference.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 11:38am

    Terry Gilbert:
    “Our leaders are democratically accountable, and they must be in no doubt about the mood of the party by the time of the next conference.”

    But do you really think the leadership will wait for conference to decide how these tax cuts should be distributed?

    Surely it’s apparent from the events of the last couple of weeks that Clegg is determined to present us as the party of middle-class tax cuts. I don’t believe for a moment he will risk that being frustrated by conference.

    I’m sure it will all have been pre-announced well before then in a blaze of publicity – just like “Make It Happen” – and the party will be told to fall into line again.

    If Clegg could claim earlier this year that we might be only “months away” from a general election, he will certainly be playing that card to the utmost by next year…

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Sep '08 - 11:56am

    “even a 4p cut would only save the poorest £4 a week.”

    An income tax cut will not save “the poorest” anything because they are not earning enough to pay any tax to start with.

    There is an issue about people on low incomes paying tax and whether they should be taken out of the system. Similarly we have proposals to help the very worst of pensioners

    However those aren’t anything to do with tax cutting. The continual references to benefiting “the poorest” are irrelevant and just pure spin.

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Sep '08 - 12:48pm

    It wasn’t you who made the point so I don’t think we disagree. There are good reasons for tax cuts and they benefit people who need help.

    However it is dishonest for some (not you) to portray the MiH tax cut proposals as benefiting “the poorest”

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 12:51pm

    Alix

    Well, thanks for that, but it really only goes to confirm that whether the basic rate were cut or the personal allowance were raised, the bulk of tax cuts would go to the middle class, the benefit to the low-paid would be small and the benefit to those who don’t pay income tax would be nil.

    That’s why I object to these tax cuts being sold to the party as a way of tackling poverty. If tackling poverty were really the priority there would be far better ways of doing it – ways that would direct the money to the poor rather than spraying it over 80-90% of the population.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 12:57pm

    And at the risk of Mark Pack coming back and accusing me again of “misquoting” people, it is simply no answer to say that many poor people do pay income tax. No one is suggesting that none of the poor pays income tax.

    The point is that many of the poor do not, and those who do don’t pay much and so won’t benefit much from income tax cuts.

  • Terry Gilbert 16th Sep '08 - 1:28pm

    Hywel – for the sake of clarity, clearly it will only affect income tax payers so I meant ‘the poorest among income tax payers’. Perhaps I should have made this clear.

    Alix – I’m glad to have your support, but I’m afraid that the party leadership is bent on cutting income tax RATES, which benefits the richest (income tax payers) far more than the poorest (income tax payers). I was very concerned when they announced this as part of the Green Tax Switch. Now they are saying they want even more reductions to benefit those on ‘lower AND MIDDLE incomes’. How else would they do this without reducing tax RATES? If Vince and Nick can come up with a convincing plan, which does not include another income tax RATE cut, I will support it.

  • I think that there is a big risk in getting confused over terminology here. When we talk about ‘the poorest’, what do we mean? The bottom 10%? Anyone below the average salary (49% of the population, by definition)? Certainly in the big picture our tax plans reduce taxation on those at the lower end overall, which has two effects:

    1) As has been pointed out, many poor (by which I mean people in statistical poverty, below 60% of average income) people do pay some income tax and any cut in that tax will benefit them to some extent. CCF makes a reasonable point in saying that it’s hardly a huge cut, but that’s still not a reason not to do it in my opinion. Small amounts of money can make a big difference when you haven’t got any.

    2) It raises the benefit of increased earnings, going some way towards easing the ‘poverty trap’, whereby people who move up from the very bottom of the income scale can find that a large proportion of their new, slightly higher, earnings are eaten up by withdrawl of benefits and payment of taxes. This is a good thing for those who are just starting to take steps out of poverty and these are certainly people who most of us would regard as ‘poor’ in comparison to the great success that some people find in our society.

    Would we like more redistribution? On the whole, yes, I think we would. But this can only be achieved by freeing up money that is currently simply being spent centrally by the government, along with some increase in the amount paid by the genuinely wealthy (hence the attack on tax loopholes). As a first stab at this, I think the new policy isn’t bad. It balances a number of difficult challenges, including the need to provide some relief to those people whose household budgets are becoming unworkable with the new fuel and food price shocks.

    In the long term, I think that cutting income tax at the bottom end is a good idea insofar as it benefits those who are simply trying to get on with their lives, pay their way and support themselves and their families/communities/whatever. For this reason I’m a bit dubious about LIT and am more inclined towards LVT.

    I also think that we can have this discussion without the need for accusations flying around. Nobody is going to impress anybody by ‘winning’ an argument on the internet, so please stop trying.

  • Tony Greaves 16th Sep '08 - 2:24pm

    “Since when does it matter who you are when the substance of what you say is what is at stake?”

    In my view it is a fundamental part of open democratic debate that people take part as individuals. In order to assess what people say we need to know who they are and what they are. Using silly nicknames on the internet has debased public debate generally but if we are debating matters within this party it should not be allowed.

    Basically it’s sneaky, undemocratic, a denail of the fundamental liberal affirmation of people as individuals in all their complexity.

    If you are not even prepared to be honest about who you are, what else is there?

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 16th Sep '08 - 2:38pm

    “You don’t claim housing benefit on your council tax. You claim council tax benefit on your council tax”

    This is true now (did not used to be) though I think if you are claiming housing benefit you claim the two together. It is however not relevant to my argument.

    If you are poor enough the Council Tax benefit is 100%.

    To be clear about what I think should be done, I am in favour of raising the thresholds at which income tax is paid quite substantially, I am in favour of a low “starting rate” (the 10p argument), I think that income tax is not too high and that the standard rate should not be cut at all (except as part of a package to balance introduction of LIT) and I think there should be a top of rate of 50p for people on incomes of more than £100,000.

    I would also integrate NI contributions into income tax which would have an important redistributive effect.

    Tony Greaves

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 2:54pm

    Mark

    What have any of those quotations to do with your accusation that I have deliberately misquoted people (in “many” threads)?

    I asked you to provide an example, or else retract the accusation. Kindly have the common decency to do so.

    Or do you now view it as part of your job to smear party members who don’t “toe the line”?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 3:30pm

    Mark Pack:
    “I gave an example (turning Alix’s many into all) in my earlier comments.”

    But this is utter nonsense!

    Alix said many poor people paid [income] tax. I pointed out to her that the poster she was responding to had not been talking about all poor people when he said “I do not think that income tax cuts will make a great deal of difference to many of the poorest”.

    My point – if it really has to be spelled out – was that if someone says many of the poor will not benefit, it is no answer to say “that’s not true, because many of them will”.

    How does that amount to “misquoting” anything, let alone “turning Alix’s many into all”?

  • Grammar Police 16th Sep '08 - 3:55pm

    Both sides agreed that our spending proposals should be prioritised above plans to cut tax further than the 4p we aleady plan. Everyone seemed to agree with the 4p tax cut directed at the less well-off. We also all agreed that there should be no cuts to front-line services.

    But the wording of the amendment was such that it provided that one could *only* improve equality through Government spending. Do we believe this? Please remember, no one is talking about cutting front line service spending here.

    I’m very pleased that the Party rejected an amendment which would have enabled us to be spun in the media and by the other parties as the high tax wasteful, non-liberal, statist party. And one that tied us to a ridiculous assumption that “equality” is something done to you by the state (I’m “lucky” enough to have supported my mother through the maze that is being on minimum wage, being taxed and then attempting to claim the money back through the tax credit system – with the ridiculous forms, the delays, the stress. Surely better not to take that money in the first place?)

    As Chris said, when the facts change – we should change our policies.

    I was also rather pleased to vote the same way as the majority; pretty much everything else I voted for at conference was defeated!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 4:00pm

    Grammar Police:
    “But the wording of the amendment was such that it provided that one could *only* improve equality through Government spending.”

    Where exactly is that in the wording of the amendment?

  • CCF: Terry Gilbert’s original statement was this: “I do not think that income tax cuts will make a great deal of difference to many of the poorest, who do not pay it, and it would be better…”. I think his commas are a bit misplaced, because when you read it it can seem that he is saying that poor people don’t pay income tax (“the poorest, who don’t pay income tax”), thus most of them won’t care about it. But this is a weird subtlety of English grammar, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others read it differently. I think I can see what he means (if only because I doubt he’s really claiming that no poor person pays income tax), but I think that the confusion stems from this. From this misunderstanding stems everyone else’s rounds of mutual misunderstanding which have been about as englightening to read as an average David Cameron speech, i.e. not at all.

    I repeat my earlier point: nobody is going to be given a prize for scoring the most points in an internet argument. Catching someone else out in an argumentative sleight-of-hand does not mean that you have won.

  • Grammar Police 16th Sep '08 - 4:04pm

    As in one of the posts above if you look CCF,

    After 4 (line 20) insert new paragraph

    Conference further resolves that any reduction in overall levels of public expenditure should be a lower priority than measures to reduce inequality in British society, improving public services, including in particular health, education, child care and public transport, and making the urgent investments needed to tackle accelerating climate change.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 4:09pm

    Grammar Police

    But where in that do you see an implication that “one could *only* improve equality through Government spending”?

  • Alix Mortimer 16th Sep '08 - 4:15pm

    “…reduction in overall levels of public expenditure should be a lower priority than measures to reduce inequality in British society”

    The “lower…than” construction implies that the two subjects on either side of the phrase are two different things, and that the first is not, in fact, a part of the second.

    The idea that inequality can only be tackled through state spending was also, rightly or wrongly, very much the line adopted by many speaking in favour of the amendment yesterday. I felt at the time they were making a rather reductio ad absurdam job of it, but the direction of travel is quite clearly there in the amendment.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 16th Sep '08 - 4:15pm

    Rob Knight

    Well, maybe Alix misunderstood what Terry said, and that might explain why she responded as she did.

    The fact remains that I did not misquote her (if what you suggest is true, I was explaining the meaning of the post which she may have misunderstood). I certainly did not “[turn] Alix’s many into all” – that seems to be pure confusion on Mark Pack’s part.

    What I object to is being accused of deliberately misquoting her, when I clearly did no such thing. I realise this stuff is tedious for other people to read through, but if I’m being accused of dishonesty I’m not just going to sit still and take it.

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Sep '08 - 8:25pm

    Vince is talking of tax cuts of the equivalence of 4p
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2008/sep/16/libdemconference.liberaldemocrats3?gusrc=rss&feed=uknews

    I have to say I can’t recall any figures being put on the scale of tax cuts before yesterdays debate but I may have missed something.

  • Returning to this subject, I’d like to ask: how do essential services raise people out of poverty?

    Yes, I accept they are essential because things like the health service keep people alive in the first instance and provide a basic standard of life in the second – but this is not to say that this raises anyone out of poverty.

    The ability to improve one’s standard of life and fulfil one’s individual potential is enabled by providing the means to make choices as an expression of free will. The inability to make the most of these opportunities by making good choices is a failure of wider society’s ability to provide adequate levels of information and education. We can only raise people out of poverty by by untying the vulnerable and weak from the dependency trap.

    So if essential services are of vital importance this should not be to the exclusion of reform of the tax regime. It is unfortunate that this debate has seen various sides trying to separate the connection.

    By the sounds of some of the more left-wing voices you’d have thought taxation was an essential service! Well, it might all that’s keeping Gordon Brown alive, but it’s not taking him off life support – removing this plank from the Labour argument might in some quarters be called a mercy killing.

  • Hywel Morgan 16th Sep '08 - 9:33pm

    Vince as suggested tax cuts could be of the order of 4p (or equivalent)
    http://tinyurl.com/54tz6j

    Firstly that’s the first time I’ve heard a figure put on the scale of any tax cuts (strange that such clarity emerges after the debate)

    Secondly that would add up to around £12bn. Doesn’t leave much left of the £20bn.

    It would be unthinkable to drop pupil premium (Nick’s leadership election flagship proposal) or extra police which adds up to about another £3bn.

    Anyone really believe you can get increased pensions and free care for the elderly (not to mention scrapping tuition fees, developing zero-carbon energy and high speed rail) out of the remaining £5bn?

    That leaves us with a real problem – clearly there will be tough choices. It’s one thing to say we’ll leave announcing detailed proposals until the election. But people need to be campaigning on these things now and for the next two years – not in the three weeks after the manifesto is produced.

  • I am the Surrey County Councillor who was on the radio during conference. Thanks to Tony Greaves. I agree 100% with your comments. It is also important to me that it is Tony Graves saying it as he has reputation in the party. I would have a different take on Oranjepan’s view if he was Nick Clegg or Iain Dale.

    My future in the party is on a knife edge. I joined in 73 and am now very demotivated and will like others above not be doing much in the next 2 years. I have been persuaded by colleagues to stay in the party and fight. I was here a long time before Nick Clegg and I dare say I will be here a long time after he has gone.

    Please let’s not be dishonest with ourselves. The whole debate was about tax cuts for the middle classes and parking our tanks on the Tories’ lawn. This will not work here in Surrey because if you are in favour tax cuts you’ll vote for the real tax cutting party, the Tories and if you want social justice you now don’t have an option so we have lost our argument to Labour voters.

  • Alix Mortimer 17th Sep '08 - 1:19pm

    @John D,

    “Please let’s not be dishonest with ourselves. The whole debate was about tax cuts for the middle classes and parking our tanks on the Tories’ lawn. This will not work here in Surrey because if you are in favour tax cuts you’ll vote for the real tax cutting party, the Tories and if you want social justice you now don’t have an option so we have lost our argument to Labour voters.”

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how you can say that. For a start, saying the Tories are “the real tax cutting party” is an article of faith the most extreme blue rinser would hesitate to make. they’re not are they? they have pledged to cut inheritance tax and stamp duty. That’s not a real full-blown income tax cut.

    As for social justice, our cut in the basic rate benefits all lower rate taxpayers, reducing their tax by a fifth. In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit, you have to believe that the term poor can only be used on those earning less than £6k, which is a total nonsense. The NMW is higher than that on a full time job.

    The chief problem people earning less than 6k have got is that they don’t earn enough money. They need help from things other than tax cuts – that’s obvious. What I don’t understand is where we’re supposed to have said that we’re not going to help them, when actually all benefits will either be retained or even increased under a Liberal Democrat government – except for tax credits, which will be withdrawn from high earners.

    Everybody on this thread seems to be assuming that if you give a tax cut to basic rate taxpayers – including those on the minimum wage – it must mean you’re not going to do anything for non taxpayers. Why this totally artificial imposition of either/or?

    John McCarthy: “Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to talk nonsense.”

    Perhaps not entirely fair here as tax arithmetic is hardly common knowledge. John D, please let me know if you want any tax calculations for low earners to put in your campaigning materials and I’ll do them with pleasure.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 1:26pm

    “Vince as suggested tax cuts could be of the order of 4p (or equivalent)
    http://tinyurl.com/54tz6j

    Firstly that’s the first time I’ve heard a figure put on the scale of any tax cuts (strange that such clarity emerges after the debate)

    Secondly that would add up to around £12bn. Doesn’t leave much left of the £20bn.”

    Well, the existing proposal for a 4p cut was costed at about £20bn. So what Cable says implies that virtually the whole of the money saved by these hypothetical £20bn spending cuts would go directly into tax cuts.

    Clearly that’s completely different from what the party was told before the vote – that only what was left after satisfying our spending priorities would go into tax cuts, that we couldn’t guarantee any tax cuts at all, that about £5bn might go into tax cuts (Hughes).

  • CCF, you’ve missed out the fact that other taxes will be going up.

    Afaik, we’ve identified £20bn of spending on projects that we don’t approve of, and want to cancel this. From there, we take £15bn and spend it on other projects, and put £5bn towards an income tax cut. The remaining (say) £15bn required to fund the income tax cut comes from green taxes and the removal of loopholes for the rich. The total net spending cut and net reduction in taxes is £5bn, with the end result that the rich pay more and the poor and average earners pay less.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 1:58pm

    Rob Knight

    No, the policy agreed last year – the 4p cut from income tax – is what’s meant to be paid for by a combination of green taxes and increased taxation on “the rich”.

    That has all been agreed and that 4p cut is party policy. Clearly what Cable is talking about here is the additional tax cuts the party is proposing – which are to come from the £20bn hypothetical spending cuts.

  • Thanks for the offer Alix but I am not interested in whether we are giving low earners an extra £5 or £6 a week.
    In Surrey, one of the richest places on the planet it is virtually impossible to get a social care package unless you are at death’s door or destitute. I have a non life-threatening condition where I have been waiting nearly 2 1/2 years for treatment.
    My son’s school is oversubscribed and struggling to fit all the kids into a set of buildings that are over 40 years old and flood when it rains hard. I went to University for free and got a grant cos I was a working class kid, something denied to today’s youngsters.
    Public transport in Surrey is poor and the Tories are looking to cut subsidies to buses meaning we will probably lose evening and weekend services used by the poorer people in our society. Trains into London in the rush hour are so overcrowded that if we treated animals this way there would be an outcry. We need to spend £200 million just to get the roads in a position where they are acceptable. I am currently campaigning for a pedestrian crossing on a busy main road but at current spending levels it will take 5-6 years to get to the top of the list, unless, god forbid, someone is killed.
    Across Surrey we have £1.5 million per year allocated to combat climate change, slightly over £1 per person.
    Consequently rather than middle class tax cuts I would like to spend that extra money on social care, health education, transport and climate change.

  • John D, that analysis does ignore the fact that lower taxes means more money that people can spend on those priorities for themselves. In fact, it might be a lot more efficient for people to spend their own money improving their own lives than having to do so via state mechanisms. Just a thought!

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 2:37pm

    Alix:
    “As for social justice, our cut in the basic rate benefits all lower rate taxpayers, reducing their tax by a fifth. In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit, you have to believe that the term poor can only be used on those earning less than £6k, which is a total nonsense. The NMW is higher than that on a full time job.”

    Now I’m convinced you are deliberately misrepresenting what has been said.

    No one has said “the poor will not benefit” from these tax cuts.

    What people are saying – and it has been said so many times now that I cannot believe it hasn’t penetrated – is:
    (1) The poorest – who do not pay income tax – will not benefit at all,
    (2) People on the minimum wage will receive only a small benefit and
    (3) The bulk of these tax cuts will go to the middle class, not the poor.

  • “John D, that analysis does ignore the fact that lower taxes means more money that people can spend on those priorities for themselves. In fact, it might be a lot more efficient for people to spend their own money improving their own lives than having to do so via state mechanisms. Just a thought!”

    I am almost speechless. So the people earning £10 to £15k are going to spend there £5 a week on health insurance, private schools and cars. Now I know I am in a paralell universe.

  • Sorry about the typos in the above but I was distracted by the daftness of the post.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 2:51pm

    John D:
    “Now I know I am in a parallel universe.”

    No doubt the same universe in which the state pension is £30 a week!

  • Grammar Police 17th Sep '08 - 3:49pm

    CCF muses “(1) The poorest – who do not pay income tax – will not benefit at all,
    (2) People on the minimum wage will receive only a small benefit and
    (3) The bulk of these tax cuts will go to the middle class, not the poor.”

    The median gross pay in the UK is around £19K according to the ONS.
    From the same stats, very few who earn anything earn less than the personal allowance. This means that the 4p cut to the basic rate would help an awful lot of people who are low earners. We also have polies about pensions, and benefits etc that will improve the lot of those with incomes of less than the personal allowance. These policies are alongside the tax cuts.

    As to your points 2) and 3). Our policies now hope to be able to make additional tax cuts after our spending priorities are met, without cuts to front-line service spending. If that can be done, there’s no reason to accept/imagine that they will be used in ways that make 2) and 3) true.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 4:09pm

    Grammar Police
    “As to your points 2) and 3). Our policies now hope to be able to make additional tax cuts after our spending priorities are met, without cuts to front-line service spending. If that can be done, there’s no reason to accept/imagine that they will be used in ways that make 2) and 3) true.”

    Yes, of course these additional tax cuts are what we’re talking about! (As expressed by the title of this thread.)

    In the article cited above, Cable suggests that the tax cuts “could involve some combination of cutting the basic rate or raising allowances”.

    Either of those, or any combination of them, will obviously result in the bulk of the cuts going to the middle class.

    All this has been discussed above. On the basis of £5bn tax cuts, we seem to have a consensus (!) that this would be worth at best something like £3-5 a week to those on the minimum wage.

  • John D: Who said anything about private health insurance, private education or cars? And why pick those examples rather than healthy food, books or bus tickets? Taken to its logical conclusion, letting people have any more money than they have now would do nothing to really improve their lives. Hopefully I’ve managed to avoid making any typos, but now I’m the dumbfounded one.

    I think you’re putting the worst possible interpretation on what I’m saying. I can understand that, because it’s quite easy to believe the worst of people engaging in these kinds of debates. But I’m hopefully being honest and well-meaning when I suggest that people might, in many cases, be better judges of how a sum of money should be spent than the government is.

    I can entirely see what you mean, in that you’re assuming that money is going to be diverted away from desirable, worthy public projects and into the hands of private individuals who will spend it in some manner that neither benefits themselves nor society as a whole. I disagree and think that, within reason, people should have more chances to decide on how money is spent and that we have gone too far down the road of believing that the only morally good kind of spending is public spending by the government.

    I’m a bit disappointed that you think that my opinion is stupid or perhaps even disingenuous. I don’t think the same of yours, although I disagree with it. And I think that we probably agree on a lot too (I’d like to see more redistribution than is present in this package, but I’d like to see the money being funnelled directly to the people who need it). Hopefully we can debate the relative merits of the two approaches whilst admitting that each other is honest and reasonably intelligent.

  • Rob Knight

    You obviously did not read my post immediately above yours where I said I wanted the money spent on social care, the health service, schools and transport. I am not arrogant enough to say that people would not be able to spend their money wisely. I am saying these types of services benefit the poor proportionately more and they cannot afford the alternatives.

  • I don’t think we would underfund things or that there isn’t a lot of waste. I am saying that, we are not a particularly overtaxed country, and if we can save some extra money there are loads of things that the money can be spent on. Our current plans certainly do not pay for the following not exhaustive list.

    Proper social care packages for all who need them.
    Replacement of school buildings over 40 years old.
    Smaller class sizes.
    Free university education and support for those who can’t afford to go.
    Decent public transport provision in all areas
    Investment in longer and more frequent trains on most commuter routes.
    High Speed Trains (nb I don’t agree with this one but it is a commitment with no obvious funding)
    Bringing roads up to a decent level.
    Climate change measures such as subsidising loft insulation, solar panels etc
    Climate change mitigation measures like flood relief.

    I could go on and on. Using the £5 billion as an extra tax cut (remember we are already committed to a 4p cut) would give a low paid worker less than a fiver a week, while those extra services would benefit the poorer more.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 6:31pm

    Alix:
    “Please don’t listen to CCF at his silliest and most melodramatic. I’m not misrepresenting anything, I’m genuinely trying to understand your point of view.”

    I wondered how long it would be before we got to the name-calling.

    But really you could not have made the misrepresentation more obvious. You wrote “In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit …”

    The point is that you know perfectly well that people _aren’t_ arguing that. That’s been pointed out to you about a dozen times now. And yet you keep saying it. Why is that?

  • Clegg's Candid Friend's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 7:04pm

    Funny isn’t it CCF, all sorts of people’s conversations with you turn into you saying “why don’t you understand?”. Maybe it says something about you.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 17th Sep '08 - 7:35pm

    CCFCF:
    “Funny isn’t it CCF, all sorts of people’s conversations with you turn into you saying “why don’t you understand?”. Maybe it says something about you.”

    Oh, come off it. My posts about these tax cuts have been perfectly clear, and so have those of the other people who are sceptical about them.

    It’s not that the argument is at all hard to understand. It’s just that some people find it convenient to put a straw man in its place.

  • Dane, I know we’ve crossed swords before, but that’s no reason to sink into ad hominems.

    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, but don’t try to pass it off as fact when the evidence is there for others to judge for themselves.

    I am very happy with our position of promoting a great ‘tax switch’ as it is something we’ve been running on specifically for a couple of years now and it fits in with our tradition of opposing the dogmatic views of both the ideological ‘tax cutters’ and ‘tax ‘n’ spenders’.

    So don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and don’t attempt to condemn my views as those of an ‘apparatchik’, as many of us were saying exactly the same things long before Nick Clegg became the leader of the party.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 18th Sep '08 - 12:25am

    Given the amount of mud that gets slung around here – including mud slung by “moderators” employed by the party – you can hardly be surprised that some people prefer to remain anonymous.

    I used to post under my real name, but I prefer not to lay myself open to that kind of defamation – particularly as, realistically, no kind of redress is available.

    While the site allows anonymous/pseudonymous posting, people can respond or not as they prefer. But if people are incapable of producing a counter-argument, criticising someone for not posting under their real name is a poor substitute.

  • A Lawyer and a Lib Dem 18th Sep '08 - 8:03am

    CCF I suggest you learn what defamation means (and secondly, this site doesn’t “employ” anyone – and the Party certainly doesn’t employ anyone to run it!).

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 18th Sep '08 - 9:30am

    “secondly, this site doesn’t “employ” anyone – and the Party certainly doesn’t employ anyone to run it!”

    Oh dear. More “misunderstandings”. It can scarcely be an accident, can it?

    Please read what I wrote again. I referred to a moderator employed by the party. I didn’t say anything about a moderator employed by the _site_ or about the party employing anyone to run the site.

  • Clegg's Candid Friend 18th Sep '08 - 9:37am

    And on defamation, the accusation made was one of habitual dishonesty. Of course that’s defamatory – unless it can be substantiated – even though it’s the stock in trade of many on the Internet.

  • Hywel Morgan 18th Sep '08 - 11:04am

    It would be an interesting debate as to whether a person employed by the party who was regularly and frequently moderating and contributing to this site in work hours was on a “frolic of their own”

  • sanbikinoraion, I’ve never met Laurence Boyce so I can’t assume that it is his/her real name, nor do I think it is necessary or important to know however much he/she tries to assert it as fact.

    The content of the comment is far more important than the person who says it.

    (Alright, Laurence, I accept from the tone of your comments that you read like a male, so I’ll make a judgement call on the basis of probability where conclusive evidence is lacking – who can completely trust online avatars anyway?)

  • Grammar Police 18th Sep '08 - 6:06pm

    Nice of you to say so, Sanbikinoraion.

    My main reason for using a moniker is it enables me to post during short breaks in the working day without worrying that my employer thinks I spend all day posting on sites like this!

  • It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out who I am. A Surrey County Councillor with the name John D who has been on the radio over conference.

  • “To be fair, John D, there are, like, a billion “John D”s in the UK”

    Eh?

    Last time I looked there was only one on SCC. Am I suffering from some sort of post invisibility where only some parts of my posts appear? Methinks there are trolls about.

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