Nick Clegg: “I have to drag the Tories kicking and screaming” to raise tax threshold”

Nick Clegg took questions from journalists after yesterday’s speech on security and privacy. One of them was on tax, after the reports in the press over the weekend that the Tories were cheekily trying to claim credit for lowering the tax threshold.

Let’s hope that some nice cartoonist has some fun with his comment that he’s had to drag the Tories kicking and screaming into every set of talks on lowering taxes for those on low and middle incomes.

He also said that his recent plea for an extra £500 workers’ bonus had received a frosty reception from the Conservatives.

He said:

And it was a Liberal Democrat manifesto promise on the front page of our manifesto which will finally find its way into the pay packets of millions of people next month by raising the allowance to £10,000. I’ve said I want the allowance to go even further up. I want a further worker’s bonus in the next budget so that the allowance is set at £10,500.

I – how can I – I’ll try and be polite on this. My Coalition partners, by contrast, have been spectacularly inconsistent. Beginning of the Parliament they were first going on about inheritance tax cuts for millionaires. Then they wanted to fiddle around with the upper rate of income tax. Then they wanted to fiddle around with the taxes for married couples. Then they wanted to fiddle around with taxes to give incentives to people to give up their employment rights to take up shares.

So they’ve got a fair amount of brass neck to now claim that somehow all they ever wanted all along was to see the allowance go up, because that’s not what they said in public, and crucially, it’s not what – actually what they said in private, either. I’ve had to drag the Conservative party, kicking and screaming, in every single budget negotiation.

You can see his comments in full over on the party website.

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38 Comments

  • Sorry, I find it difficult to believe that a low tax party like the Tories had to be dragged into giving tax cuts to a significant voting base.

  • I can see where g is coming from, but at the same time the Tories were more interested in inheritance tax at the election than raising the income tax threshold. I don’t doubt that many Tories wish they had campaigned on the policy and very much support its implementation but that is was something from the LibDem manifesto is a point we have to keep hammering home as it is clear the Tories want to make it theirs instead.

  • Every time I hear or read Liberal Democrats spout this desire to claim ownership of every idea from tax thresholds to the NHS I can’t help thinking of “that was my idea” Reeves and Mortimer or Mr. “Everything good was invented in India” from Goodness Gracious Me.

  • I suggest JRC that you start to take more of an interest in what is going on – this was a top Lib Dem priority in 2010 and we have delivered on it – 1 thing for certain if either Labour or Tories had won full control – they would not have done it.
    Well done Cleggie and co

  • Any discussion in LDV on this subject pulls out the tax obsessives. If they think the solution to everything is paying low taxes or indeed no taxes at all why don’t they relocate to Mogadishu ?

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 11:25am

    Excellent point by John Tilley.

    Back in the Charles Kennedy days, the Lib Dems used to say they believed passionately in the idea that good public services were worth paying for, and they claimed (rightly) that they were only party with the guts to say this and to say where the money would come from.

    Ten years on and the Lib Dems are reduced to “Vote for us and we will give you money”. As a left-leaning voter, the chances of me voting Lib Dem now are vastly smaller than they were back then.

    “And it was a Liberal Democrat manifesto promise on the front page of our manifesto which will finally find its way into the pay packets of millions of people next month by raising the allowance to £10,000.”

    The promise (which was actually on page 6 of the manifesto – he can’t even get that right) was for an increased allowance “paid for in full by closing loopholes that unfairly benefit the wealthy and polluters”.

    This was NOT delivered, and to claim that it has been is dishonest.

    If you actually go back to the coalition’s first budget, they were explicit about the fact that the first allowance increase was actually financed by (among other things) the savage cuts to family tax credits.

  • “we need to target all our tax cuts at those on low and middle incomes”

    But of course raising the allowance – and particularly raising it further in the future – doesn’t do that.

    It’s a tax cut for most of the working population, perhaps excluding the 15% or so at the top who pay the higher rate, but definitely excluding those at the bottom who don’t earn enough to pay income tax.

  • @David
    “I suggest JRC that you start to take more of an interest in what is going on – this was a top Lib Dem priority in 2010 and we have delivered on it ”

    I never understand why people on here write these kind of things – is it to make people like me, who voted Lib Dem in 2010 on the basis of your manifesto, incandescent with rage? As Stuart Mitchell points out, your manifesto stated that a raising of the tax threshold (why does the headline of this piece say lower tax threshold?!) was to be paid for by closing tax loopholes, whereas it has actually been financed by raising VAT amongst other regressive measures. Those on the lowest incomes haven’t benefited from the threshold being increased but they have been affected by VAT being increased.

    Following on from the points made by others, how does being a party that wants a smaller state differentiate the Lib Dems from the Tories and how can this be squared with previous manifesto commitments (e.g. 2005) to increase taxation to pay for increased public services? Why would anybody vote for a party that in government has pulled in the opposite direction to almost everything it proclaimed in the previous decade?

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '14 - 1:27pm

    “Any discussion in LDV on this subject pulls out the tax obsessives. If they think the solution to everything is paying low taxes or indeed no taxes at all why don’t they relocate to Mogadishu ?”

    well, John, we’ll decline to accept the legitimacy of the Mogadishu parallel because it is a straw man.

    there was nothing Mogadishu like about Britain in 1997 when the state spent about 37% of GDP.
    there is nothing khat-munching-militia like about an electorate accepting no more than 37% of GDP in taxation.

    we might equally point at non third world nations as spending less than 37% of gdp on a sustained basis whilst sustaining welfare programme and economic growth at the same time.

    is there a good reason why the British public should accept continental style levels of taxation?

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 2:53pm

    @Jedibeeftrix
    By and large, the public hasn’t got a clue how big the tax burden is. Still less do they have any sort of “acceptable level” in mind. I’m amazed you keep trotting this fantasy out on thread after thread when there is no evidence for it. Try asking a few acquaintances (not tax-obsessives) what the tax burden is and see how accurate their answers are.

    People even struggle to tell whether the burden is going up or down. Back in the mid-80s, the tax burden was at its highest level in history – but most people (thanks to the Tory press) were convinced the government was slashing their tax bills. Please explain how such people are supposed to have any kind of informed idea about what level of tax is acceptable to them.

    If the public had any sort of opinion at all about the 37% tax burden in 1997, it was that this tax burden was far too low – hence for the next three elections they voted in large numbers for parties that were committed to increased spending.

    “is there a good reason why the British public should accept continental style levels of taxation?”

    Perhaps some of them have noticed that there are countries with higher tax burdens than ours where people are nevertheless richer and have a higher standard of living than we do? Which isn’t a BAD thing, really.

  • David,

    I’m not sure if you are being intentionally ironic or unintentionally demonstrating my point. If the former, (again in the spirit of Reeves and Mortimer), imagine me holding a pink plastic handbag up to the screen and saying “oooh” in a moderately high pitched voice.

    Just in case it’s the latter I’ll explain the serious point behind my flip remark: continuously asserting ownership of ideas, whether implemented or not, is tribal and serves only to promote the impression of petty oneupmanship. This is especially so when whilst in government the party has done so much to undermine and dismantle those ideas over which you claim ownership. The Liberal Democrats would be far better served by reasserting themselves as protectors of civil liberties and promoting policies that they think would improve the country in the future from their party political standpoint rather than claiming ownership of every idea from liberalism to the welfare state.

    You are correct in stating that it would have been unlikely that Labour or Tory governments, if left to their own devices, would have implemented the idea but that would probably have been because it is not a particularly good idea for the country and is almost entirely defined within the terms of populist vote chasing.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '14 - 7:02pm

    “By and large, the public hasn’t got a clue how big the tax burden is. Still less do they have any sort of “acceptable level” in mind. I’m amazed you keep trotting this fantasy out on thread after thread when there is no evidence for it. ”

    Stuart, and yet the exchequer has never persuaded the electorate to part with more than this on any sustained basis.

    Unlike our neighbours over the water.

    The answer is obvious, put out a manifesto asking for greater taxes to do greater good, and see where we get.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 7:38pm

    “and yet the exchequer has never persuaded the electorate to part with more than this on any sustained basis.”

    Not true – the tax burden was significantly higher throughout the 1980s. Not only were the electorate persuaded to allow this to happen, but most of them (even the ones who didn’t vote for her) believed that Mrs Thatcher was presiding over a low-tax economy!

    “The answer is obvious, put out a manifesto asking for greater taxes to do greater good, and see where we get.”

    Well, the Lib Dems stood on high-tax-and-spend manifestoes in the last four elections and polled 16.8%, 18.3%, 22% and 23%. Let’s see how well they do next year with their new low-tax approach.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '14 - 7:45pm
  • John Broggio 5th Mar '14 - 8:20pm

    The Guardian spreadsheet only tabulates central government expenditure. The overall picture is rather different if one includes all sources of public sector expenditure and income (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/252543/PESA_2013__Oct__Cm_Chapter_1_Tables.xlsx – for 2008/9 onwards)

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Mar '14 - 8:24pm

    thank you.

    how does that change the overall picture?

  • @Stuart Mitchell

    “Ten years on and the Lib Dems are reduced to “Vote for us and we will give you money”. As a left-leaning voter, the chances of me voting Lib Dem now are vastly smaller than they were back then”

    You really do deserve an award for imaginative twisting of ideas into elaborate, contorted shapes. Simply delivering on a promise to cut taxes FOR THE LESS WELL OFF does not make us into a low-tax, small state party. What we have done is shift the burden of tax from the poorest to the richest.

    Basically the comments here are from people who don’t support the party so are never going to give us credit for implementing a good idea anyway.

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 9:52pm

    “the guardian disagrees with you”

    No it doesn’t – it shows tax burdens significantly higher throughout the ’80s than they were in ’97, exactly as I said. The difference was even more pronounced when you take in to account all receipts (as John Broggio points out).

  • Stuart Mitchell 5th Mar '14 - 9:55pm

    @RC
    “Simply delivering on a promise to cut taxes FOR THE LESS WELL OFF does not make us into a low-tax, small state party. What we have done is shift the burden of tax from the poorest to the richest.”

    So many things wrong with that.
    1) The allowance increase has not been focused on the “less well off”.
    2) You ignore the net effects of all tax increases.
    3) The less well off deciles have done worse than almost anybody else according to the government’s own budget impact figures. The biggest gainers (in fact the ONLY gainers) have been those in the upper-middle deciles.

  • Alex Sabine 5th Mar '14 - 11:31pm

    Stuart – You are right that the overall tax burden was relatively high in the early-to-mid 1980s (as it had been also in the mid-1970s). This was partly because the Thatcher government raised taxes significantly, as well as containing programme spending, in order to reduce the large structural budget deficit inherited from Labour in 1979. Only once the budget wasclose to balance did they start cutting taxes in overall terms, but once they did so the tax burden fell sharply in the second half of the 1980s. In this sense Thatcher was a fiscal conservative rather than a US-style supply-side tax-cutter.

    However, the comparison with today needs to take account of the changing role played by North Sea oil revenues. This is a key reason for the ostensibly high ‘tax burden’ in the early-to-mid 1980s, whereas it is much less of a factor today. Thus public sector receipts actually rose (in nominal and real terms, and as a proportion of the economy) during the deep early 1980s recession, which is not what you would expect from conventional public finance theory or practice. The underlying tax burden was considerably lower than this, though still pretty high.

    Jedibeeftrix is right that – at least for the past 25 years – no British government has been able to finance spending above 37%-38% of GDP (approximately) from revenue, but has always had to resort to borrowing. Certainly there is nothing special about his threshold from an economic point of view – the ‘optimal’ level of taxation for the UK might well be somewhat lower or higher – but it does seem to indicate a tipping point in terms of what the public is willing to pay, or the politicians believe they can extract from the citizens.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '14 - 12:59pm

    RC

    You really do deserve an award for imaginative twisting of ideas into elaborate, contorted shapes. Simply delivering on a promise to cut taxes FOR THE LESS WELL OFF does not make us into a low-tax, small state party. What we have done is shift the burden of tax from the poorest to the richest.

    The promise has only been partly delivered. As Stuart Mitchell notes, the full promise was to pay for all the tax reduction at the lower end with tax increases at the upper end. Many of those balancing tax increases hit the brick wall of the Tories as the Non-Worker’s Party, by that I mean the party whose central purpose is the defence of wealth and income gained through owning rather than working. The Tories are always going to see taxes on property and inheritance and capital gains and that sort of thing as just against what is at the core of their belief, which really is the old aristocratic one, that wealth which was not earned as wages is somehow more nobler than other sorts of wealth, and therefore should be taxed less, and preferably not at all. Oh, they’ll dress it up as rewards for success etc, but come on – for how long most we reward the success of those who invaded our country in 1066 and became the landed aristocracy, as the most extreme example?

    So, of course in negotiations with the Tories in coalition, they’ll give in on those parts of our policy which most fits in with theirs, the reduction of tax allowance, but not on that which least fit in with theirs, more taxes on unearned wealth, and the closing of loopholes on such taxes as already exist. So, the balance is made up instead by things like cutting university subsidy and cutting welfare payments.

    Throughout the existence of the coalition, I’ve accepted that this sort of thing is going to happen. I’ve accepted that the coalition might not be my ideal government, being five-sixths Tory means it’s a long way from that, but it’s what the people voted for in 2010 by voting for the Tories more than for any other party, and in 2011 when they confirmed they liked the distortions of the current electoral system which gave the Tories far more MPs and hence power than their share of the vote would have given them under a more proportional system, and the LibDems far less. People are saying they don’t like coalitions. Very well, if we don’t have a coalition, we have a government of the largest party even if it didn’t get anywhere near half the vote. That’s what the “No” campaign in the 2011 referendum said was the best thing, and by two-to-one, the British people voted to agree with them. Well, anyone who thinks that’s the best thing – it includes most Labour voters – should be cheering on the LibDems very time they roll over and give in to the Tories, as that pushes things further to their idea of a single party government if the largest party.

    However, while this is what the people voted for in 2011, of course I’m just making a sarcastic point. They were tricked into it. But the reason they were tricked into it was that the Liberal Democrat leadership did not put the point that the election result of 2010 was bitter disappointment with the Liberal Democrat share of seats twisted so much lower than their share of vote and the Conservative share of seats twisted so much higher, giving us this horrible Tory-dominated coalition in which the LibDems can have only a minor influence, no more than swinging the balance to the more liberal side of the Tories in Tory internal debate.

    This continual “it’s all wonderful”, “we’re getting all (or 75%) of our manifesto policies through” line damages us, because people can SEE it’s misleading ad-man’s language, people can SEE this government is nothing like what the Liberal Democrats said they stood for in 2010. The sleight of hand which pushes the increase of the tax allowance forward as a manifesto success, while hiding the important balancing factors that made up the full manifesto policy is a key example. It doesn’t work, it makes us looks shifty and insincere, it fits in with all the attacks being made on us about only really wanting “power” (meaning government jobs) and not really meaning what we said.

    We could have accepted the reality of the coalition as a necessity given the balance in Parliament, but with more realistic language about how little influence we can really have, instead of all this “it’s all wonderful” stuff, which quite evidently ISN’T WORKING in terms of maintaining and winning over electoral support.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Mar '14 - 10:47pm

    jedibeeftrix

    we might equally point at non third world nations as spending less than 37% of gdp on a sustained basis whilst sustaining welfare programme and economic growth at the same time.

    is there a good reason why the British public should accept continental style levels of taxation?

    Well, you go on and on and on and on an on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about this, and I see after having taken a break from LibDem Voice for while, you haven’t stopped, but not once have you replied to the point I keep making to you about all those aspect of society which are going to push up state spending. It is all very tiresome, I’m fed up with circular arguments that get nowhere because people like you just carry on throwing out the right-wing propaganda yet show no ability to engage in a rational debate with someone who argues back at them.

    In recent decades we have seen some quite remarkable advances in what can be done medically, which means people live much longer on average, hence more spending on pensions, and more on all these extra medical things we can now do to keep people alive whereas a generation ago they’d have been left to die. So long as we think there should be such things as state pension and state provision of health care, this alone is BOUND to put up the amount of money the state is spending. I don’t see any call in Britain for state pensions or the NHS to be abolished. I’ve made this point so many times in reply to you, so why do you just keep repeating your same old stale line with never an answer to this reply?

    In addition, the greater complexity of society leads to many other ways in which general spending on infrastructure has to go up, even if to the casual observer nothing is changing. We see much the same in industry – there is vastly more in the way of financial and management infrastructure than ever used to be the case, because of the greater complexity of things. Our recent ancestor would be astonished if they looked at the balance sheets of the big companies now and saw ow much was spent on the corporate equivalent of the state, and how little on actual shop-floor workers making things and doing what they would regard as productive work.

    On top of this, governments here since the early 1980s made the astonishing mistake of getting rid of the once substantial supply of housing rented out at cost-price only on an allocated-on-needs basis, and of encouraging the pumping up of private house prices, and are then surprised to find that what was once just an emergency short-term provision for the immediately homeless, private rented housing paid for by housing benefit, is now the permanent way many people are forced to live. We all of us who pay tax are paying to the private landlords who make pure profit from this, thanks to that decision to give away the state’s assets. Go to all those council estates where most of the housing has long gone under right-to-buy, and see it now inhabited by much the same people as used to live there, but now paying three or more times what the rent is for those properties still left state owned. Yet the policy that led to this is still regarded as a huge success.

    We have got rid of direct state subsidy of universities, and invented a trick system which takes it off the government’s books, but in practice has little difference i.e. much the same people still end up paying much the same as they would do anyway in the long run. Why this obsession with the idea that it makes a magical difference whether it comes under what constitutes your 37% or does not? We COULD do something similar with the NHS, have it funded through some private insurance scheme, with some backup system which meant we could offer assurance no-one who needs treatment ever gets turned away, and it would lead to that 37% figure dropping a lot, but in practice what real difference would it make? Yours is voodoo politics, jedibeeftrix. I’d prefer to be talking about real people doing real things rather than conjuring tricks with numbers.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '14 - 9:25am

    jedibeeftrix

    i don’t object to making the case for spending more, to do more good.
    that is pretty much the purpose of a positive liberty left wing party.

    no, what i object to is the people who will not not be honest about the implications of this desire.

    Yes, and I object to people who go on and on about keeping the proportion of GDP spent through the state at some level without being honest about the implications, and that does include you. Sorry jedibeeftrix, but this was just the point I was getting at. As you say, and I appreciate that, when I note the forces pushing up state spending, I am honest enough to say that this means we must look at forms of taxation that people will resist. However, you’re not doing the same the other way round. You’re not being honest about what has to be agreed won’t come under state spending in order to keep it at a fixed level.

    what these people, not you as you are plainly honest in your ambitions, will not do is admit that the british people have hitherto failed to exhibit the scale of ambition for collective ambition that some laud in scandinavian countries.

    I disagree. I have not seen the British people exhibiting any ambition for the scale of reduction in public expenditure that your point of view leads to. If, as you are trying to imply, the British people are with you on this, then there would be a mass campaign to end the NHS, that being one of the main forces driving up state expenditure. Support for ending the NHS in this country is limited to a tiny economic right-wing fringe. If what you say is correct, then there would be a substantial proportion of the British people cheering on Nick Clegg for his support in ending direct state subsidy of higher education. But there is not, is there?

    What we have is an unrealistic debate, in which the realities of both sides are not properly expressed. The British people like the provision of state services of the left side, and they like the idea of low tax on the right side, and they have been fooled by poor politicians into not properly seeing the tradeoffs. And you, jedibeeftrix, are part of this, in the way you go on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about keeping the level of GDP spent through the state low, claiming the British people are with you on this, without tackling the issue of those forces driving it up.

    Because the debate is unrealistic, both sides, by asking questions biased to their side, giving the popular aspect and hiding the unpopular, can claim the people are with them. I don’t think we can really say where the British people are because we have not had an honest debate. I can blame both the left and the right for this. The right have managed to dominate the agenda. They are in control of most media outlets, and also have managed to gain control of internet discussion, because it is very plain to anyone who engages in internet political discussion that the proportion of people in that sort of discussion who adopt and argue passionately for low state policies is hugely greater than the proportion of people in the population as a whole who take that position. The left is to blame because it has been taken over by an elitist pseudo-intellectual class, which often shows contempt for working class people, not openly but in its attitudes, and has just taken their votes for granted and let all the culture of mass political engagement rot away.

    I have a further point, which is the lack of appreciation on the economic right of the way short term cuts in state spending lead to long term rises. I think this explains a lot about what has been happening in this country. We’ve gone through decades of short-term top-down enforced cuts in state expenditure, particularly when it goes through local government, and in so many cases this leads to problems that have to be met by emergency expenditure later. That is why the cuts aren’t working, they keep being made, people get more miserable, yet state expenditure does not go down. It is rather like someone who tries to save money by cutting down on repairs and maintenance and investment, and then wonders why he still seems to be paying out so much, as he’s forever having to pay up on quick patch-ups to deal with emergency situations. This is just what I saw when I was a councillor, quick and easy cuts made in each department because of a top down mandate to cut a proportion of expenditure, but no analysis of the knock-on effect. So often you got cuts where the knock-on effect would be higher spending somewhere else, but if it was higher spending that didn’t come under YOUR budget, well, that wasn’t your problem.

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Mar '14 - 10:56am

    @Jedibeeftrix
    “no, what i object to is the people who will not not be honest about the implications of this desire.
    they talk in veiled references to making the rich pay their fair share, and other such euphemisms, none of which will make a material difference unless we decide we don’t like having a free market economy any longer.”

    We don’t have a free market economy. We have a mixed economy.

    “what these people… will not do is admit that the british people have hitherto failed to exhibit the scale of ambition for collective ambition that some laud in scandinavian countries.”

    You’re ignoring huge swathes of British post-war history there. It’s much more accurate to say that the British people (since 1945) have failed to exhibit the scale of ambition for a shrinking state that you have. Perhaps you’ve forgotten (or are not old enough to remember) just how brassed off people were with the state of public services in 1997 after the Tories had spent ten years shrinking the state. The electorate responded in 1997, 2001 and 2005 by voting consistently in huge numbers (>60%) for parties committed to a growing state.

    Other than voting in such big numbers for these parties, what exactly do the British people have to do to convince you that they’re actually quite relaxed about living in a mixed economy with a substantial public sector?

    The British public have rarely shown much enthusiasm for shrinking the state, even during the brief period when the Tories were doing just that. To this day, opinion polls always show that a large majority of the public wish the privatized industries were owned by the state again. Even 52% of TORY voters wish that the rail and energy companies were nationalized (YouGov, Nov 2013). The public are not nearly as allergic to state involvement in the economy as you imagine they are, on the contrary they seem to be quite fond of it.

    It’s a source of total bafflement to me that you are a Lib Dem. You rage against the whole “fair taxes” concept but the Lib Dems believe in that more than anybody. You hate a “big state” but the Lib Dems have consistently argued for a bigger state than any other major party.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '14 - 1:34pm

    jedibeeftrix

    rather than seeking another scapegoat sector of society that can be squeezed just a little harder:
    1. the middle class under NL
    2. the rich with our valiant class warriors
    3. the old with their baby-boom good times
    4. the bankers with their moral deparavity
    5. the londoners with their ‘unfair’ infrastructure (how i hate that term)
    simply admit that there is not enough tax money coming in, without continueing a series of divisive societal battles

    Why is it considered an outrage when MPs abuse their positions to get a few thousand pounds to spend on fripperies like the infamous duck house, but something that is just nasty divisiveness to express concern about thousands of senior bankers each receiving bonuses which would pay for a hundred duck houses, and doing so in reality because they sit on the taps where money flows and so can take their cut?

    When owning property generates more wealth than work, why do you consider it an outrage to suggest possibilities for some of that money being taxed in order to enhance the liberties of those who own nothing?

    The nature of society is that it is becoming economically more centralised, with real economic power being concentrated into a smaller number of hands, and those being able to exploit their control to ask for more and more income. Wealth and income inequality has been growing for several decades in this country, it is a far less equal country than it was when I was growing up. So why do you regard mentioning this and suggesting ways to reverse it to be unacceptable class warfare? Why is your suggestion of dealing with the budget deficit the imposition of expenditure cuts which will have a devastating effect on the liberty of poorer people? If you say we cannot seek further tax to pay for the NHS, because that is unacceptable class warfare and an unacceptable on the rich, what you are REALLY saying is that to protect the liberty of the rich, the poor should die. Yes, if there are things we can do to keep someone alive, but we say we cannot raise the funds to do it, then we are saying they must pay to defend the freedom of the rich to enjoy their wealth with their lives. Well, to me, loss of life is a rather big loss of liberty.

    Why do you insist it is the poor who must be squeezed harder and harder and harder, depriving them of the safety nets and ladders that once existed to help them have some freedom and give them a chance to move up and become like your precious rich people? When I was young, the thing that gave my family freedom more than anything else was the modest council house that young parents with two or three children would then get allocated as a matter of course. High housing costs have squeezed that freedom away from people who aren’t wealthy, who can’t afford to buy, who have no inherited wealth to help them on the “housing ladder”. Why does that closing down of freedoms not bother you at all?

  • well said Matthew

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Mar '14 - 5:46pm

    matt

    well said Matthew

    Thanks, but when I first joined the Liberal Party the sort of things I was saying there wouldn’t need to have been said as most people would find them so obvious they wouldn’t think they need to be said. I’m not saying, though jedibeeftrix will probably accuse me of it, that we should have rigid state domination of everything in order to enforce exact wealth equality. All I’m saying is that there’s a role for the “ballot in our hands” to counter the problem of freedom being restricted by concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, so that those who are not wealthy should not be reduced to being “beggars” to those who are, and that countering “enslavement by poverty” is an important aspect of maintaining freedom.

    My experience is that in my decades of adulthood people have on the whole come to feel more stressed in life and less free, despite governments which have been driven by the sort of mentality jedibeeftrix gives here – this idea that freedom means above all protecting the wealth of the wealthy, and somehow if that is done we will all benefit. The depressing thing is such has been the success of those pushing this line, that it’s now become the norm, it’s the sort of politics that people who want to look smart will pick up and spout to do so, just as when I was young people who wanted to look smart picked up and spouted Trotskyite socialism. The only line that the jedibeeftrixs of this world can give us in reply to any criticism of their position and its failure to realise what it claims to be about is that despite appearances of it being tried to the death, it hasn’t been tried seriously enough, we are still in some semi-socialist society where the jedibeeftrixs are the brace revolutionaries, it will all work out if only it is tried in a much more extreme form. Well, this is like those Trotskyists I met when I was a student whose only reply to the evident failure of state socialism in the USSR and similar countries was that it was just “state capitalism”, so it needed to be tried in a much more extreme form, then it would all work.

    It’s depressing having come back to LibDem Voice and straight away finding myself in the same sort of argument saying the same sort of thing as I found myself saying again and again when I was previously involved, and feeling I am meeting the same brick wall in terms of lack of comprehension. I’m actually aware of the arguments on both sides, and if I were dropped in the middle of a pool of unreconstructed old style socialists, you’d find me spouting out economic liberalism, because I feel both sides need to be understood. What is so horrible is this impression I get that what I am saying is now so out of line with thinking even within the party, that it comes as a sort of shock for someone to be saying it here. It’s nice to be thanked for saying it, but I wish it didn’t have to be said because it was a position most people here would have understood anyway.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Mar '14 - 4:56pm

    jedibeeftrix

    Quite why Britain has never seemed interested in quite the same level of collective action is a subject that would span books and history, but the consensus to date has not allowed government to act with this level of intrusiveness.

    Like much else you write, this is simply parroting right-wing propaganda from the press.

    I remember back in the 1980s, when it was the Labour Party under Michael Foot who opposed membership of what was then still called the “Common Market”, and the Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher which was the pro-European party, the opposite line was used. It was argued that Britain was naturally more inclined to collective state action than the rest of Europe, and being in the “Common Market” meant tying Britain into a sort of economic liberal framework that was against the British inclination.

    This idea that Britain is somehow naturally economically right-wing was completely made up in the past decade or so when the Conservatives moved to the right, funded to do so by the same people who pay for this sort of propaganda to appear in the newspapers they control.

  • Jbt, you took a lot of verbiage to say what you could have done in two sentences: “As a representative of the extreme right, I believe that the UK would be better off having only right-wing parties to choose from. Therefore I am doing my damnedest to turn the Liberal Democrats into a carbon copy of the Tories, only even more right-wing if possible.”

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Mar '14 - 9:29am

    jedibeeftrix

    i also demand that you evidence your claim that i hail from the the “extreme right” of british politics. do it. do it now. or retract the slur forthwith…

    It depends what is meant by “left wing” and “right wing”. Socialists and communists played the clever trick of getting fascism labelled as “extreme right” to hide the similarities between it and their own ideologies. In fact, fascism is a centre-left ideology in economical terms. So, if your objection here is that you think you are being accused of having fascist or racist opinions, I’m happy to agree with you, it’s unfair – but that wouldn’t be what I meant by “extreme right”. I would say the core left-right spectrum (part of the issue is that the terms are often used in other ways) is that the right defends the existing balance of power and wealth and says its best for everyone it stays like that, while the left challenged that notion and says it should be more widely spread and believes action should be taken to ensure that.

    I don’t believe the electorate are idiots, but I do believe they have been fed a constant diet of right-wing propaganda, as most of the press has a bias that way. I don’t believe the people have had the arguments on both sides presented fairly. I believe this is to a large extent down to the failure of the political left to build and maintain democratic mechanisms to challenge the inbuilt advantage the right has.

  • Matthew Huntbach,

    “Socialists and communists played the clever trick of getting fascism labelled as “extreme right” to hide the similarities between it and their own ideologies.”

    Excellent work there in undermining the entire basis of your thesis. If your objective is to dissemble the message of the right wing propagandists it would probably be best not to spout right wing propaganda, nor to define the terms of the debate in particular narrow terms that are not the common understanding of those terms in order to validate your own propaganda.

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