FT’s Philip Stephens attacks “sainted” Vince – here’s my reply

From: [email protected]
To: [email protected]
Date: 30 March, 2010
Subject: ‘Honest Vince’ yes; fast and loose no

Dear Philip,

Thank you for your article in today’s FT, Now ‘Honest Vince’ plays fast and loose. It was very much a column of two halves, the first praising Lib Dem shadow chancellor Vince Cable, the second seeking to bury him.

I’m guessing the source for most of your attacks on the Lib Dems’ pledge to cut taxes by lifting the personal allowance to £10,000 was the Fabian Society’s recent hatchet-job, published via Left Foot Forward. A number of Lib Dem bloggers took its tendentious claims to task at the time.

Even more significantly, so did the Lib Dems’ manifesto author, Danny Alexander, in a reply on Left Foot Forward published yesterday. You won’t have had chance to read it before penning your article, so let me highlight a few key points that Danny emphasises:

  • Under Labour, the poorest 10% pay 48% of their income in tax while the richest pay just 34%.
  • The tax bill for the poorest 10% of families includes £270 in income tax. Under the Lib Dems that bill would be £0. The next decile pay £599 in income tax; again under the Lib Dems that would become £0.
  • Tax credits do not benefit the poorest decile of people the most – the second, third and fourth decile all get more than the bottom one.
  • Tax credits increase the poverty trap. When you add up income tax, national insurance and tax credit withdrawal the poorest face a marginal tax rate of 70%.
  • And when you add in lost council tax benefit and housing benefit, marginal tax rates can easily reach 92%. For someone earning the minimum wage that would mean an extra hour’s work earns you about 50p

As Danny concludes:

I am not going to apologise for being the only party proposing to provide an extra £1bn for those at the very bottom. I am not going to apologise for thinking it’s important for families on low and middle incomes, as well as the most deprived, to be able to make ends meet and put a little aside for the future. Our tax plans would be the most radical tax reform in a generation, and it is only cowardice from Labour that prevents them following us down this progressive and radical road to a fairer tax system.

Your article focuses on the Lib Dems’ tax cuts, but fails to look at the package of measures the party is putting forward, such as scrapping council tax or the pupil premium, both of which will be of especial help to the poorest in society.

Perhaps oddest of all, though, is the inconsistency in your attack on Vince Cable.

In one paragraph you suggest he lacks political savvy: you talk of “swingeing tax increases” which “might politely be called heroic”. But then you conclude that Vince “is not quite as sainted as some suggest. In truth, he is a politician like the rest.”

Either he’s an impractical idealist, or a cynical politician: you can’t have it both ways. Not unless you are, in truth, a journalist like the rest.

Looking forward to a return to your usual tip-top form soonest.


PS: Lib Dem blogger Nick Thornsby highlights how Philip Stephens attacks on Vince differ from his newspapers editorial line here.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Stephen – can you do a separate post if/when Philip replies to you? -Tim

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Becket 24th Jun - 11:14pm
    You could not publish articles like this in a newspaper. If they were printed the publishers would be in trouble. The same law should apply...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 24th Jun - 10:50pm
    ITV's political reporter Paul brand has said on Twitter that the chief whip has told the opposition parties that the writ will be moved tomorrow...
  • User AvatarJoseph Bourke 24th Jun - 10:46pm
    Peter Martin, "borrow from someone else". This is not the case though is it? Banks create the money required to finance propery purchases that enable...
  • User AvatarMichael 1 24th Jun - 10:34pm
    @John Marriott I was *not* proposing anything I was merely commenting on some of the benefits of free movement which was what was up for...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 24th Jun - 10:06pm
    @ Chris Moore " I can’t believe we’re going to start campaigning at a national level on the grounds that Lib Dems have less irregularities...
  • User AvatarAlex Macfie 24th Jun - 10:02pm
    David Raw: Hardly relevant. Do you honestly think Chris Huhne would have wanted to stand again having resigned his seat?