#ldconf podcast: Vince’s speech

There are now many ways of getting your brain around Vince Cable’s keynote speech. Read it on the party website. Hear our podcast below. See what ePolitix thinks – or the Guardian, for that matter.


There was much that was really important that jumped out at me from the speech – here are my favourite bits:

We should not be taken in by the hysterical nonsense about the country being bankrupt. It isn’t.

The Tories are currently getting a free rein to slash budgets. Tories like cutting public expenditure, so the opportunity comes to them like manna from heaven. By making great hay of the idea that we are massively in debt they have all the cover to need to make the evil spending cuts they wanted to make all along without taking any of the flak. Labour do not have the standing to take them on on this, so it is vitally important that we do.

Spending first. If public spending is cut in the usual way – slash and burn – there will be great damage to local and national services. Good will be cut with bad. Front line services will be butchered and lower paid workers will bear the brunt of cuts. […]

The Liberal Democrat approach to spending, is fundamentally different from the Tories. The Tories propose cuts, carried out in secret behind closed doors after the Election, if they win. We want an open, democratic debate about priorities. They want to control everything from Whitehall – just like Labour. We believe in local government. Local decision making is more accountable and more efficient. This requires lifting the dead hand of centralisation and scrapping the command and control quangos who treat local elected representatives like children. We would give additional roles to councils through health commissioning. And with that duty should go responsibility including more local revenue raising powers including business rates.

This is the vital counterbalance to Clegg’s “savage” cuts. This is Vince being measured, realistic and taking every step needed to engage the public sector in finding the economies necessary. Almost everyone who works in the public sector knows there are efficiencies to be made. It’s vital we continue with campaigns like “In the Know” to keep the public sector onside and not alienate them. The bureaucracy is a vast army who must be turned to work for the public good. That means, however, that the public sector unions and management have be nimble enough to use their powers to tackle waste and to tackle wasteful projects without grumbling. The quid pro quo will be: avoid slash and burn by taking responsibility for the public purse.

We must also lead the debate on tax reform as a Liberal government did a century ago with the People’s Budget. We should aim to shift the tax burden further from income – work, savings and innovation – onto pollution – the green tax switch. Switching taxation onto financial pollution – questionable transactions of no social and economic value. And onto land values instead of penalising productive investment. But at the heart of our tax plans must be a commitment to social justice.

Explicit links to LVT? Some in the party will be jumping for joy at that!

We need a financing mechanism which can meet the investment needs of big long-term projects which will lie at the heart of a green economy: tidal power, high speed rail, carbon capture and storage, telecommunications infrastructure.

Yes, yes, yes with knobs on! As someone with a strong interest in the environment and transport, it’s clear that massive investment is needed that will ultimately save money, but affording that is always a challenge. Any mechanism like that – that real people can invest in – will be vitally important to our future prosperity and ultimately, keeping our heads above water.

Finally, I’ve been a little puzzled about the £1m home tax idea, which is being lauded and trumpeted as a new idea. It rang bells with me, because I’m sure it had been floated before in a Vince speech. He says in his own speech, “You may also recall that I proposed a small annual levy – half a penny in the pound – on property values over one million pounds.” With a bit of Google fu, I eventually found a story from the BBC saying Vince abandoned his £1m home tax in March 2008, following pressure from his colleagues that this would impact too much on the middle classes. Wind forward 18 months to an utterly different tax climate with a much greater willingness to clobber the wealthiest, and once again, Our Sainted Vince looks remarkably far-sighted.

Those links in full:

Lib Dems plan wealth tax on £1m homes (2007)
Why the Conservatives must stand up for the deserving rich
Cable rethink on high value homes

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This entry was posted in Conference and Podcasts.


  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 1:06am

    I must say it’s difficult to disagree with Sarah McCarthy-Fry when she says:
    “They’ve spent years arguing to replace council tax with more income tax because they don’t believe in taxation being linked to homes.
    “Now they’ve managed to make the centrepiece of their conference exactly the opposite – a new tax on homes”

  • Day 2 of the conference, are there any voters that the Lib Dems haven’t managed to alienate yet?

  • “Our Sainted Vince looks remarkably far-sighted.”

    If that were so you think he could have sorted out this pretty elementary point:
    “But the party is facing questions about how it will work in practice after officials admitted they did not know whether the new tax would be based on Land Registry figures, based on house sales, or whether local authorities would have to carry out new valuations.”

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 9:07am

    And in the same article:

    “Party officials have stressed the new tax would be a “temporary” measure until it was able to implement its plans for a local income tax. “

    I don’t understand why that should follow at all. To add further to the confusion, again in the same article:

    “But Mr Cable said it may be phased out if the party succeeded in swapping council tax for a local income tax.
    Asked on the BBC News Channel whether the £1m “mansion tax” would be temporary or permanent, Mr Cable said: “It depends on where, eventually, local tax goes.”

    What does that mean?

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Sep '09 - 9:12am

    This was a very good and important speech.
    It set out the problems (note the order of these):

    Rising Unemployment
    Failed Banking System
    Falling Tax revenues
    Rising Public Spending
    Balancing economic recovery with environmental initiatives

    Then, in saying ‘after a heart attack life styles have to change’ he sets out where urgent action is needed (again note the order):

    Urgent action on unemployment (quoting Lloyd George)
    Making sure good private sector firms get the credit they need (from banks)
    Unemployed found work or training and required to work or train
    “Once recession recedes” managing unsustainable PSB
    Decide what in the future Government should and should not do
    Concentrate on bid projects – transport and environmental
    Change the incidence of taxation

    This is all great stuff.

    In my opinion this is the core of a campaign to “Rebuild Britain”. All it needs is a great rallying cry to all those in despair about the state of the country and the state of British politics. Through this comprehensive and radical programme it offers hope, and an easily supported way forward. We could all campaign for this in our communities and we could all find local issues that would support and compliment that national campaign. People can understand this diagnosis and support this ‘treatment’ to extend his metaphor. We could all communicate and campaign for this in our neighbourhoods.

    The huge frustration is that for some reason the leadership doesn’t see what it has in its possession and instead leads on savagery, brutality and pain. It is all stick and no carrot. That is not true leadership, it is the stupidy of attempted command without power.

    To achieve the above programme of Renewal, Rejuvenation and Renaissance one needs National Leadership co-ordinated with local action. One needs the inspiration and the conviction of a Lloyd George.

  • @Herbert ‘What does that mean?’ It means if Local Income Tax is introduced it will be abolished, and if LTV (as you Greens want) is introduced it will be integrated into the LTV system.

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 10:05am

    “It means if Local Income Tax is introduced it will be abolished …”

    You miss my point.

    What I’m asking is:
    (1) Why should it be abolished if Local Income Tax is introduced?
    (2) Why is Cable suggesting that Local Income Tax might not be introduced?

    Oh, and by the way I’m neither a Green, nor someone who has the slightest interest in LTV.

  • I thought the ‘Financial Heart Attack’ metaphore was brilliant. Together with the corollary – (financial) Lifestyles need to change afterward.

    It will resonate with everybody.

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 10:46am

    Apparently Julia Goldsworthy’s “friends” have told the Guardian that the first she knew of this new property tax was when she heard Clegg taking about it on the radio. “Friends say that, had she known, she would have been able to iron out the problems that immediately befell the policy when it was announced …”

  • This thread shows Vince at his best and his worst. At best – visionary, balanced, humane, practical, a real leader. At worst – just too darn sure he is always right, just a bit too ready to define the details and get them muddled, and just too unwilling to play team.

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 12:43pm

    It seems there has been almighty row over this, and that the malcontents are not willing for it to be kept behind closed doors.

    Vince Cable’s new “mansion tax” policy has come under fire from senior Liberal Democrat MPs at an angry meeting at their party conference in Bournemouth.

    The BBC understands several frontbench members criticised the policy during the private meeting, with one senior MP describing it as “codswallop”.

    During the hour-long meeting, many of the front bench team complained they had known nothing about the policy until it was announced, and were furious that they had been left to answer journalists questions without being consulted or informed.

    “At the very least,” one told Dr Cable, “We deserved the courtesy to be informed first.”

    At a briefing on Monday, Dr Cable’s spokesman suggested the policy had been discussed by the shadow cabinet.

    But during Tuesday’s meeting, one MP described the policy as “complete codswallop” whilst another said it had left Mr Cable “seriously damaged.”

    Another senior MP complained that the party leader Nick Clegg and Dr Cable had “not been given powers to govern all policy for the party” and called for respect from the Treasury team.

    A spokesman for the party said “lessons would be learned.”

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 12:54pm

    I suppose one can understand their anger, considering that they forced Cable to drop the idea last year, only to see him announce it at this year’s conference without even telling them!

  • Bill le Breton 22nd Sep '09 - 1:20pm

    It is suggested above that Goldsworthy knew nothing about the new property tax. Well … it seemed apparent from Webb’s contribution to the Fresh Start debate just now that he hadn’t been consulted before the means testing child benefit allowance kite was flown AND given Nick Harvey’s hesitant and faltering defence of the proposed increases on service pay on Radio 5’s Drive last night it would seem that wasn’t his idea either.
    So much for cabinet government! They should have tendered their resignations on the spot. Because they haven’t, they can expect to be treated this way again and again in the future.

    What is going wrong is the communications activity – the naive belief in the need for shocks, for wins over conference, for a tough image – mansions; means testing, and militarism – for the red tops.

    In this case it is detracting from a very important speech (that actually mentioned taxes on land values which is the better approach to changing some of the incidence of taxation). A speech that made sense. A speech that led on the need to take action on unemployment, infrastructure projects that help sustainability, education and training and creating a new, more liberal, relationship between the citizen and the state. And it made clear that fiscal tightening should not begin before we are sure that the recession is over.

  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 3:01pm

    More from the Times.

    Mr Cable’s frontbench colleagues were stunned to discover it formed the centrepiece of yesterday’s speech, saying that Mr Cable had been trying and failing to argue for its introduction for years.

    They were stunned that he appeared to have unilaterally overridden their objections without prior discussion and several including Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg’s own chief of staff, struggled to explain how it would work in practice.

    The confrontation with Mr Cable happened at a rowdy meeting of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party at 9am this morning

    The Liberal Democrat leader was not at the meeting, having arranged a visit to a nearby farm. In his absence, colleagues felt emboldened to criticise Mr Cable, accusing the mansion tax plan as “complete codswallop”.

    Another said that Mr Clegg and Mr Cable had “not been given powers to govern all policy for the party”. One described the policy as “suicidal”.

    Frontbenchers have complained to The Times that they have been forced to defend decisions in their subject areas which they had no idea were coming and, in some cases, disagreed with.

    Scottish Lib Dem MPs were amongst the ringleaders, including Bob Smith and Alistair Carmichael, they claimed, while Julia Goldsworthy was another who had been particularly embarrassed by the mansion tax announcement because she was unaware, even though it fell in her brief.


  • Herbert Brown 22nd Sep '09 - 3:04pm

    And the Telegraph.

    “Maybe he’s not quite as clever as he thinks he is,” offers one senior Lib.

    And Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman, openly accepts there is “frustration” over the handling of the tax pledge.

    Dr Cable himself if looking decidely gloomy today after getting a kicking at a morning meeting with fellow MPs. Not that there’s much sympathy for him among colleagues. “Serves him right for believing his own hype,” mutters one.


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