LibLink: Danny Alexander – Liberal Democrats have no part in Tory plans for harsh cuts and empty tax promises

The two Coalition parties continue the process of “conscious uncoupling” today. Yesterday, George Osborne said the Lib Dems threatened the economic recovery. Today, it’s a case of straight back atcha from Danny Alexander, as he lays bare the difference between the Lib Dem and Tory economic approach ahead of the May 2015 election in an article in today’s Telegraph:

Last Wednesday, the Coalition delivered another Autumn Statement that stuck to the strategy we’ve had since 2010: clearing up Labour’s mess in the public finances and doing so fairly; reforms to reward work and improve the UK’s long-term growth prospects. This was a very Liberal Democrat Autumn Statement – income tax cuts, infrastructure investment and a big, liberal tax reform. Our plan has widespread public support. But there is still work to be done to finish the job after the election. With Labour having long since departed the battle for economic credibility, the big question now is which of the Coalition parties is actually promising to stay the course, and which is lurching away from it? …

By the end of 2015-16, we will have taken £120 billion of difficult decisions on spending and tax to reduce the deficit. The best-off in society have contributed the biggest share – indeed the top 20 per cent have contributed more than the other four fifths combined. Over the two years that follow, around £30 billion of further deficit reduction will be needed. It is essential that this includes some tax rises to make sure the wealthy make a contribution. To focus solely on spending cuts is wrong, unfair, and would put unnecessary pressure on public services and people on low incomes. Post 2017-18, the difference is even starker. The Tories want to keep on making cuts, running growing surpluses year after year, way beyond what is required to balance the books. …

The Liberal Democrat approach is to stay the course we have set in this parliament, until the job is complete in 2017-18. It is sad to see the Conservatives move away from the sensible, balanced approach of the Coalition, to a more doctrinaire policy that would inflict unnecessary pain on the people of Britain. Who would have thought that of the two parties that formed the Coalition, it would be the Tories who would be blown off course? A mix of unfunded tax promises, harsh spending plans, and pandering to Ukip may be born of pre-election panic, but it is not economically credible. The Liberal Democrats would borrow less than Labour, and cut less than the Tories. We’d get the national debt down over time, while allowing more productive investment in infrastructure and public services.

You can read Danny’s post in full here.

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  • Good BUT Danny you was jumping from interview to interview defending the Autumn Statement So find what you saying now hypercritical. Surly on those Interview you should have pointed the above out???????????

  • Danny says “The best-off in society have contributed the biggest share – indeed the top 20 per cent have contributed more than the other four fifths combined.”

    That’s at best misleading and frankly something a whole load worse. In fact, the hardest hit have been the poorest in society because rather than choosing even a modest increase in taxation the coalition have chosen to devastate the support for the worst off in brutal welfare cuts. Before the 2010 election, George planned an 80/20 cuts/taxrises ratio, what the coalition delivered was even worse 88% cuts, 12% taxrises. The ill-targeted personal allowance rises have given billions to middle earners while doing nothing at all for the poorest in society.

    Moreover, it ignores the deep inequality of income in the UK. The reason that top 20% are “contributing” so much is because they disproportionately benefit from society and are getting a very large slice of the pie.

  • Chris Stallard 8th Dec '14 - 11:47am

    As opposed to the last 4 and a half years, where the parliamentary party has absolutely been part of the deepest cuts in living memory and a number of empty promises on fees, welfare and the “new politics”?

    Incidentally, as others have pointed out, Alexander cannot defend the statement in interviews last week and distance himself from it now.

  • But you’ve uncritically accepted Tory economic policy for four years, Danny. Why would anyone believe you would not do the same again?

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '14 - 11:52am

    Just about everyone seems to agree that the main effect of the cuts that have presently been made will actually occur in the next parliament, and that things will still be dire and there will either need to be big tax rises or more big cuts. If the LibDems actually have a plan, they should say what it is. Without rose-tinted specs.

    Has anyone got their head around Keynes yet? Is Bill le Breton available? Cuts don’t work. My consumption is your income, and your consumption is my income. So if I cut my consumption, you get less income, so you spend less, and my income goes down. The opposite also holds true.

  • Neil Sandison 8th Dec '14 - 11:53am

    If we are to maitain financial credability then we must look again at Trident .Can we genuinly afford this super expensive military toy when our conventional armed forces will struggle to meet NATO and UN obligations .I am a multilaterists but realise volume of war heads does not eqaute to strength of deterrant or negotiating position in multilateral talks.The fight now is about insurgency and terrorism .Lots of nukes to do not tackle that problem .Combat ready ready and flexable well equiped armed forces has to be a Liberal Democrat budget commitment for the general election.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '14 - 12:01pm

    Yes, we can afford Trident, we’ve done it for years. Cutting Trident means cutting jobs, not a good thing to do. What the LibDems need is economic policies, not economic fudges that are actually designed to achieve other aims.

  • Neil Sandison 8th Dec '14 - 12:06pm

    Richard Dean
    So saving jobs is more important than saving the lives of our military personel interesting concept Richard.

  • We could always spend the money for Trident on something else that will create jobs. There are plenty of things that we need more than Trident.

  • @Richard Dean – agree with both your posts.

    @Neil Sandison – problem with focussing only on counter – insurgency capabilities means that you might miss the next threat which could be conventional. What we need is (as you said) “flexible, well equipped armed forces”. How and where we use them is key. There was a fascinating programme on channel 4 last night about dismantling Camp Bastion. One of the figures that stuck in my mind was the cost of the Afghan war – £35bn. If we’d not spent it there, that would cover the deficit and allow us to have stronger armed forces available to fight when and where it really matters.

  • Neil Sandison 8th Dec '14 - 12:24pm

    Agree one of the problems we had in the Afgan war is we sent in our troops ill equiped to tackle that type of conflict .Do you remember the arguements about the qaulity of equioment the had.

  • Trident has repeatedly been shown to be least popular in the part of the UK, Scotland, where the jobs allegedly are. There are far more efficient ways to spend public money to create jobs than wasting it on WMD. If serious about creating jobs, localism and boosting the economy in Scotland, then hand over the money that would be wasted on Trident to the Scottish parliament and give them full fiscal autonomy (not the Smith commission’s pathetic devo-nano proposals) so that Scotland has the job creating powers it needs.

  • Peter Watson 8th Dec '14 - 1:03pm

    I am really confused by the Lib Dem position here.
    My understanding is:

    Lib Dems support the Autumn statement (more than that, they “co-authored” it and it is a “very Liberal Democrat Autumn Statement”).
    It is a very unbalanced pre-election giveaway thing with lots of spending commitments and tax cuts.
    Now Lib Dems are criticising the tories for not saying how they will pay for it.
    Lib Dems have a list of measures that mean they can fund the Autumn Statement while borrowing less than the conservatives and taxing less than Labour.

    What have I missed?

  • @Neil – I agree that we sent our troops with poor equipment and in numbers that were too small to prevail.

    But reading the history of wars in Afghanistan would suggest that they usually end in disaster for the foreign armies, and once they’ve left the Afghans go back to business as usual (i.e. fighting each other).

  • JUF
    ” …the cost of the Afghan war – £35bn. If we’d not spent it there, that would cover the deficit ”

    Yes JUF and if you add in the costs of Iraq and Libya and bombing Iraq again, and then building a base in Bahrain, and Trident replacement and we would have money to pay off the deficit and have some to spare.

    My handy little guide to government expenditure on the back of my Annual Tax Summary 2014 failed to mention the cost of the wars in Afghanisatan, Libya and Iraq.
    It would appear that the section of the pie chart described as “Defence” did not cover these wars.

    But why cut back on exciting foreign adventures where ministers can wrap themselves in the Flag when the autumn statement says we can just carry on screwing the poor until 2018 ?
    Apparently the leadership of the Liberal Democrats were co-authors of this autumn statement.

  • Tsar Nicolas 8th Dec '14 - 1:31pm

    About Afghanistan – one of the figures that stuck in my mind was 3 million civilian casualties after September 2001.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Dec '14 - 1:40pm

    I was going to say once again that Lib Dems should just sack off the coalition if they aren’t prepared to defend it, but I would really like to see some evidence on why people don’t vote Lib Dem. Lots of politicians have gone into government before, but Lib Dems seem to have paid a disproportionate price for it.

  • Conor McGovern 8th Dec '14 - 1:49pm

    When he mentions that the richest are paying more income tax than the rest of us, he neglects to mention the fact that the absolute richest 1% are rich not because of income, but because of landed wealth and bank notes stashed in tax havens abroad. Income tax doesn’t cover either of those. Land value taxation would be a start.

  • @ Richard Dean

    “Yes, we can afford Trident, we’ve done it for years”.

    The government hasn’t balanced its books once in the last decade so for at least ten years we have not been able to afford Trident, or illegal wars in Iraq, or legal but optional wars in Afghanistan and Libya.

    What we need is a comprehensive review of all government expenditure and then work out what balance of expenditure and taxes we should have. Personally I agree with Neil. I do not see that the UK needs an independent way of penetrating Russian air defences and turning Russia [and the rest of the world] into a radioactive wasteland.

    Therefore if I was Chief Secretary to the Treasury I would not be recommending a package to the Cabinet which allowed for the like-for-like replacement of Trident.

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '14 - 2:23pm

    What’s the difference, if any, between the following two scenarios?

    1. The government takes £50 billion out of the UK economy in taxes every year, and uses it to pay debt interest to a lender. Money wastes away if it is not used, so the lender invests £50 billion in the UK economy every year

    2. The government doesn’t take the tax or pay the lender, and the lender doesn’t invest

    There’s absolutely no difference as far as the macro-economics of the UK economy is concerned. But there is an important (though not all-important) political difference: in scenario the investor decides what the £50 billion is to be used for, but in scenario 2 its the population who decide.

    This suggests to me that “balancing the books” isn’t an economic priority. Let’s free ourselves from the idea that we need above all to satisfy lenders. In fact, what will help out economy most is if more people are in work and earning and spending and enjoying their lives to their fullest capacity. Addressing poverty and unemployment needs to be our first priority, and all we really need to succeed is the courage to do so.

  • Very much just a Westminster bubble non story.

    No-one cares about these synthetic, pretend differences, we know you have been working happily together ruining the country for the past five years, that you are all the same. All your leaders want is five more years with the ministerial cars, while the nation goes down the drain.

    The Westminster parties are just talking to yourselves ignoring the voters, to be ignored by the voters.

    The only way we are going to get real change in this country is to break up the cosy LibLabCon cartel. The failed political elite.

    Wherever you are, join the People’s Army. Vote UKIP to get UKIP. 🙂

  • simon 8th Dec ’14 – 2:35pm

    So the story did not get stuck on the M4 behind all those immigrants and Mr Garage ?

    Shouldn’t your slogan be “Vote UKIP get Neo-Nazi” ?

  • @Eddie Sammon – “I would really like to see some evidence on why people don’t vote Lib Dem. Lots of politicians have gone into government before, but Lib Dems seem to have paid a disproportionate price for it.”

    tuition fees, new brand of politics, broken promises, NHS re organisation, VAT, cosying up to Tories for 4 years and now manufacturing arguements, expecting everyone to believe they mean it, and the list goes on…..

  • Richard Dean 8th Dec '14 - 3:12pm

    I think that most people know that it’s “Vote UKIP Get Chaos”.
    It’s just that some people think that chaos will suit them fine.
    What a surprise that will be if UKIP get voted in!

  • David Evans 8th Dec '14 - 3:57pm

    Danny, it’s not what you say in this headline today that counts, but what you have done over the last four years. There is sadly a huge difference between the two.

  • The Liberal Democrats would borrow less than Labour, and cut less than the Tories

    In other words, ‘if you like the cuts shrinking the size of the state, vote Tory; if you want lots of spending instead, vote Labour’.

    There is no reason to vote Liberal Democrat.

    I thought the art of winning was to attack your opponent where they are weakest and preferably to avoid fighting on two fronts at the same time, but Alexander seems to be trying a novel strategy of trying to each attack his opponents’ strongest flacks simultaneously.

    I wonder how well it will work out for him.

  • Helen Tedcastle 8th Dec '14 - 4:09pm

    Danny really lays into the Tories in a devastating critique of their hard-line ideology: ‘ It is sad to see the Conservatives move away from the sensible, balanced approach of the Coalition, to a more doctrinaire policy that would inflict unnecessary pain on the people of Britain. Who would have thought that of the two parties that formed the Coalition, it would be the Tories who would be blown off course?’

    Yes, who would have thought it, It is indeed , sad.

    Actually, it’s more than that, it’s disastrous. Hardline implementation of Benefit sanctions under the coalition are leading to people in the UK going hungry. It could even get worse.

    Our Danny is ever the master of under-statement.

    ‘A mix of unfunded tax promises, harsh spending plans, and pandering to Ukip may be born of pre-election panic, but it is not economically credible.’

    The Tories’ plans are not credible. Nothing here about how devastating they will be to the lives of ordinary people, who are already finding it hard to make ends meet.

    ‘ The Liberal Democrats would borrow less than Labour, and cut less than the Tories. ‘ Wishy washy.

    I would like Danny to attack the Tories much harder on fairness and injustice but it seems he can’t bring himself to do this even now. Perhaps he is hedging his bets in the hope that he and George get to work together again in May.

  • David Evershed 8th Dec '14 - 4:34pm

    Lib Dem naysayers should recognise that Danny Alexander has been part of a coalition. Negotiations between the coalition parties should take place in private and once a course has been chosen there has to be collective responsibility among ministers if government is not to disintegrate.

    So Danny Alexander has to defend the Autumn Statement measures, but he does not have to defend the Office of Budget responsibility projections of what will happen under a future government when the governing party is not known. Instead he can put forward Lib Dem ideas as economic spokesperson.

  • @Helen Tedcastle – “Perhaps he is hedging his bets in the hope that he and George get to work together again in May.”

    I am sure that is what Danny and the rest of the LD leadership are hoping for.

    @Eddie Salmon – as to the electoral price the LDs are paying for being in government, I think it is because the LD vote in 2010 was largely left of centre, but they have been in government as part of a right wing coalition.

    I don’t think that they would be paying anything like this price if it was a left wing government they were part of.

  • @David Evershed

    “Negotiations between the coalition parties should take place in private and once a course has been chosen there has to be collective responsibility among ministers if government is not to disintegrate.”

    Disagree with you totally. It is because of this very approach to coalition government why the Liberal Democrats are suffering so badly.
    How are the electorate supposed to judge the effectiveness of the junior party unless we know what differences there had been between the 2 parties.

    The Public needs to know where the Liberal Democrats starting position was in terms of policy and what was the conservatives, then see what was negotiated as a compromise.
    Without this information the public will assume that the Liberal Democrats are being railroaded and are just nodding boys for the Conservatives.
    That is why I think AV was rejected by the electorate because the Liberal Democrats failed to show how effective coalition government should work.
    Ask Matthew Huntbach who is far better than I in explaining on how Clegg, Alexander, Laws approach was wrong and so damaging for the party.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Dec '14 - 6:10pm

    “Danny Alexander – Liberal Democrats have no part in Tory plans for harsh cuts and empty tax promises”

    I would love to be reassured that the “Danny Alexander Liberal Democrats” have no part in Tory plans for harsh cuts and empty tax promises.

  • Eddie Sammon 8th Dec '14 - 6:42pm

    Thanks Michael and JUF. I could suggest more reasons, but I don’t want to under this article. I don’t think there is a single cause for the low ratings, but for third parties to break through in a FPTP system perhaps they need to offer something worth the risk.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Dec '14 - 7:57pm

    Danny Alexander alleges: “The Tories want to keep on making cuts, running growing surpluses year after year, way beyond what is required to balance the books…”

    There are several problems with this statement. One is that the period in question is the next Parliament, ie 2015-20. The Tories appear to be targeting a surplus by the final fiscal year, not “year after year” as Danny Alexander claims. Their plans still involve heavy borrowing through most of the Parliament, adding to national debt, until the sunlit uplands are reached in 2019-20. (Given the scale of forecasting errors at the best of times, the projected surplus of £4 billion in 2018-19 is negligible and represents no more than approximate budget balance.)

    In any case the Tories already seem to be rowing back from the OBR forecast of a £23 billion surplus in that final year: Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke told Andrew Neil yesterday that they only want some kind of surplus by then, and are not committed to a target of £23 billion. This suggests they are giving themselves ‘wiggle room’ for a loosening of the spending squeeze and/or tax cuts.

    Moreover, some people are talking about this £23 billion figure as if it were a giant surplus, an unimaginable luxury… whereas in fact it represents just 1% of the projected national income of £2.26 trillion in 2019-20. (That’s not to say that it will be easy to achieve, but it’s important to get the numbers in perspective.)

    There is a more fundamental issue arising from Danny’s claim that the Tory plans are more stringent than is necessary for sound public finances. While it is true that running a surplus, by definition, means going “beyond what is required to balance the books”, it does not follow that this amounts to fiscal masochism.

    Note that the plans for a surplus are predicated on continued healthy economic growth, and that what the Tories are talking about is getting “into the black” by the end of 6-7 years of real GDP growing at between 2% and 3% per year. The intention would presumably then be to stay in surplus unless and until the economy turns down; but that is beyond the OBR forecast horizon and any plans or forecasts for the period 2020 are academic, to say the least.

    This trajectory is broadly what you would expect from a flexible fiscal policy that allows borrowing in the bad times provided it is balanced by frugality in the good times. Orthodox Keynesians like the NIESR should have little cause for complaint.

    Indeed, as I’ve argued before, there are reasons why Keynesians should be even more insistent than others on shifting the budget from deficit into surplus – as opposed to merely reducing the deficit. After all, they favour borrowing as a deliberate act of policy when the economy turns down, in order to ‘prime the pumps’ in the face of falling aggregate demand; this is on top of allowing the ‘automatic fiscal stabilisers’ to operate (ie a cyclical drop in tax receipts and increase in benefit spending).

    To maximise the ‘head room’ for an aggressive fiscal policy response to a downturn, you want to start with the budget in surplus. To illustrate this, if you go into a recession with a surplus of 3% of GDP, you can loosen policy sharply and still wind up with a peak deficit no higher than (say) 5% of GDP. If instead you start from a deficit of 3% of GDP, you have much less room for manoeuvre. Even assuming you are able to issue bonds on the desired scale (with or without resorting to central bank financing), the deficit balloons and the result is a much higher stock of debt than in the first scenario, and consequently higher debt interest costs way into the future. It also means it will take much longer to get the debt ratio back down to the pre-crisis level or to a level otherwise considered prudent.

    This is not simply a theoretical point; the likes of Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and Canada were running surpluses of the order of 2% to 4% of GDP on the eve of the global financial crisis and the fiscal wreckage of the last few years has been dramatically smaller in those countries as a result.

    So in order to maximise its effectiveness as a counter-cyclical tool, and to prevent it becoming a pretext for handing the bills for today’s spending to future generations, I would argue that a genuinely Keynesian fiscal policy should aim for a sizeable surplus at the top of the cycle; and that a steady trajectory towards this outcome, such as that outlined in the Autumn Statement, makes sense.

    It can be argued that a surplus is only appropriate when the economy is ‘overheating’ or running above its trend level. The OBR forecasts that the ‘output gap’ will have fully closed by 2019-20, that the economy will be running at its full productive capacity and growing at its trend rate of around 2.4% – at the ‘speed limit’, if you like, but not beyond it. So on this basis a balanced budget, rather than a surplus, might be considered adequate.

    In normal circumstances I might agree – although given the inherent uncertainties of economic management, prudent Chancellors would give themselves a margin.

    But this takes no account of the epic increase in public debt since the crisis in 2008, and the need to manage this down fairly aggressively. Realistically this wouldn’t happen through large-scale repayment, but through a slowly falling debt stock (as a result of year-on-year budget surpluses) alongside growing national income driving the debt:GDP ratio at a reasonable pace. If, on the other hand, the debt stock continues to rise year on year (which it would if the target is merely current budget balance), then the downward trajectory of debt:GDP will be pretty slow and we risk entering a future downturn in a dangerously exposed position, still carrying the legacy of the last crisis. In those circumstances a future government may find itself with precious little room for manoeuvre, and saddled with a ballooning debt interest bill crowding out other calls on the public purse.

    It is one of the many sobering legacy costs of the crisis that we shall have to run a structural surplus for many years to come if we want to get debt:GDP back to anything like its pre-crisis level on a sensible timescale – and this is without factoring in the long-term fiscal challenges arising from demographic changes.

    I am not endorsing Osborne’s strategy in terms of its specifics (what little we know of them, that is). It seems to me to load the spending cuts too heavily onto ‘unprotected’ departments because of ringfencing; unfairly to exempt spending on pensioners from the welfare savings drive; and to lack an overall strategic vision of what a slimmer state might look like and what functions it should and should not be doing (instead following a more politically driven and haphazard pattern of top-slicing budgets). I also think he will need to raise some additional revenue and this will probably require broadening the tax base rather than relying simply on populist raids on unpopular corporate targets. The tax system is in any case ripe for root-and-branch reform in numerous respects, but by and large Osborne has shown a preference for Brownite tinkering than bold structural change.

    Those major criticisms aside, I do think the overall fiscal objective Osborne has set out – the intended ‘destination’ of a budget surplus by the end of the next Parliament – is broadly the right course, indeed the minimum we should prudently be aiming for provided the economy evolves more or less as the OBR expects. Conversely, if the economy grows more quickly than expected, progress should be more ambitious; and if it grows more slowly the pace of adjustment will have to be relaxed somewhat.

    There is plenty of room for debate about the composition of the fiscal adjustment, which is a matter of political choices and priorities as well as economic judgement. There are numerous different combinations of tax rises, departmental spending cuts and welfare savings that could achieve a given level of improvement the public finances.

    But this idea that budgeting for a surplus is a mark of ideological self-indulgence, a sort of badge of virility, simply fails to engage with fiscal realities and debt dynamics. It’s just so long since a British government has achieved one that it seems a curious and far-fetched notion rather than (as it should be) a perfectly normal feature of responsible fiscal policy.

  • Stephen Donnelly 8th Dec '14 - 8:16pm

    Main article c400 words. Alex Sabine thread killer = c1400 words. Probably a record for this site.

  • Alex Sabine 8th Dec '14 - 8:59pm

    Stephen Donnelly: Sorry, fair cop. I didn’t realise it was quite so long till after I posted it!

  • Stevan Rose 8th Dec '14 - 9:13pm

    “Negotiations between the coalition parties should take place in private and once a course has been chosen there has to be collective responsibility among ministers if government is not to disintegrate.”

    Absolutely not. A coalition agreement is compiled consisting of policies all parties can agree on. It is clear and transparent and carries the respective memberships. If it isn’t in the agreement then it’s effectively a free vote on party lines. Collective responsibility cannot ever apply to a peacetime coalition or it isn’t a coalition but a merger. And therein lies one of our problems. Clegg has been persuaded that the doctrine of collective responsibility does apply to Tory policies whilst the Tories do not reciprocate.

    Coalitions survive by having a mutual respect and acknowledgement of their differences and being able to express them. Private stitch ups alienate party memberships and as can be seen do immense damage to the credibility of the junior party. I fear it may be too late to reverse the damage but am pleased there is at least an attempt starting. I would rather we now suspend the coalition for absolute freedom and review again post election.

  • David Evans 8th Dec '14 - 10:12pm

    “there has to be collective responsibility among ministers” NO! There I’ve shouted. Collective responsibility is a cosy arrangement to keep leaders in control of their party and the bureaucrats in control of the politicians. I remember being told by officers we had to do X because it was illegal not to. Almost all of the rest of cabinet caved in. I took it to group and they voted against it, because it was a) debatable law and b) electoral poison. I was sacked by our leader, ultimately because he preferred to believe bureaucrats rather than a Lib Dem who thought for himself. However, he didn’t go against the group vote and we didn’t do it. Four years later we still haven’t been taken to court. From time to time, the question keeps getting asked though.

  • Philip Rolle 9th Dec '14 - 12:18am

    Won’t arguing in public while remaining “colleagues” just lose both parties votes?

    I think that in six months time, you’ll regret the bickering.

    Oh and I think that there’s a fair chance Vince Cable will jump before May.

  • “Collective irresponsibility” might be a better term, when it’s being used as a tool to escape having to personally answer for bad policies. If the responsibility is truly collective, then each and every member of the cabinet must be held equally responsible for those policies, as if he or she had personally created them.

  • Stephen Donnelly 8th Dec ’14 – 8:16pm
    Main article c400 words. Alex Sabine thread killer = c1400 words. Probably a record for this site.

    Maybe Alex Sabine should write an article instead? The very nice people at LDV asked me to write one yesterday so they will obviously accept an article from almost anyone. 🙂

  • David Evans 9th Dec '14 - 10:07am

    @ David-1 “Collective irresponsibility might be a better term.” Absolutely. For a party that believes “no-one shall be enslaved by … conformity” the fact that Nick accepted that idiocy from the start in a coalition where we were bound to disagree with a lot of things from the Tory side, sadly confirmed his naivety from the very start of coalition. Alternatively, perhaps he wished to bind the whole cabinet in to the wishes of the Quad.

  • Bill Le Breton 9th Dec '14 - 10:16am

    1. Richard, I agree with you.

    2. I would like to defend Alex Sabine. Readers can skip his contribution. But he sets out a clearly argued piece. The clarity is itself enjoyable. The subject is of such seriousness that it requires thinking and expression of this quality.
    If, as some have suggested, he were to contribute a piece, he would fall foul of the 500 word an article policy (which I support) and the editors would take time to place such an article. It would lose its place in the argument. Just skip it if it ruins your enjoyment of this thread.

    3. There’s the economics and then there’s the politics. Thinking of the politics, how effective is this show of protest after Wednesday’s protestations that this is a Liberal Democrat, co-authored Autumn Statement? We shall see. I always thought that Clegg and his strategists got things the wrong way round in 2010. We needed to distance ourselves from the Tories in the early days of the coalition and actually concentrate on showing the effectiveness of coalition in the latter part of the Parliament if they had wished to pursue successfully their prime strategy.

    4. The important point is whether we as party members can trust Clegg, Laws and Alexander. Do you trust them?

    Here is a thought experiment. We have seen in the last few days protestation of the difference of our fiscal policy for the next Parliament expressed in very strong terms. Now it is The weekend following the election. We won 40 seats. The Tories are the largest party. Clegg and his negotiating team alone are negotiating with them in the old tennis court at Whitehall.

    Do you belive they will a) use a number of our tax and spend policies as red lines refusing what Clegg today describes as reckless plans, b) agree a mid point between our fiscal plans and the Tory’s, c) agreed the Tory line as set out in the Autumn Statement and probably reconfirmed by the 2015 Budget?

    Past form suggests c). The evidence is that the distance between members of the quad is feigned. Party and public get used.

  • Tsar Nicolas 9th Dec '14 - 10:32am

    Bill le Breton

    On past experience, while (c) would be what was agreed the weekend after the election, what would happen would be (d).

    (d) is the same as (c) except for the addition of the following words: “Loads of other unpleasant and unwanted things which even the Tories thought too extreme to ask for at the time of the negotiations.”

  • Bill le Breton 9th Dec '14 - 12:53pm

    TN – well yes, probably. Good to see you were at that Swansea conference all those years ago. I hope we met. I loved the Swansea Town Hall or Guildhall. I seem to remember the council chamber had an ancient Egyptian theme.

    Meanwhile: message to Parliamentary Party (and the rest): From YouGov: 15% of people think Nick Clegg is doing well as Lib Dem leader, 74% badly (a net score of minus 59, the same as last week).

    If you are holding your own in the constituency with your local reputation and local messaging, wouldn’t it be better to have even a little positive help from the centre?

  • I thought tax £12.5k was libdem policy is that unfunded

    Ok you don’t support the raise of allowance at 0.40p

    20p tax rate 12p NIS = 32p tax
    40p tax rate 02p NIS = 42p tax

    40p tax rate gets tax credit for pensions contribution at 40p

    Looks like libdem party should tell what it thinks tax rate should be and while you are at it take minimum pay multiply by 40 hours and do a reality check if £12.5 k = no tax on minimum wage

    Empty tax promise sounds like the pan calling the kettle

  • Stevan Rose 9th Dec '14 - 11:00pm

    “Won’t arguing in public while remaining “colleagues” just lose both parties votes?”

    Like maintaining solidarity with Tory policies the Lib Dems have not agreed to has kept the vote solid… No, I would strongly suggest the voters judge coalition partners on their determination to adhere to their principles. Had we said no to tuition fees and the bedroom tax with no safeguards the polls may be showing a greater respect from the electorate. The electorate don’t like divided parties but Coalitions are supposed to disagree – the public expected us to stop Tory extremes and clearly don’t accept only a partial success.

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