Opinion: Do I want a £100 tax cut? Not now, Nick

This morning Nick Clegg has embarked on a major new campaign to press the Coalition Government to increase the income tax threshold by a further £500, taking the first £10,500 of income out of tax. With half an eye to next month’s Autumn Statement, he wants to go beyond the Coalition Agreement.

However, there are problems with this.

The first is the obvious one: it has to be paid for. How will that happen?  Well, with the Conservatives having rejected any further tax on the wealthy and other changes to taxation, it would have to come from additional spending cuts. It is a multi-billion pound commitment. If the Liberal Democrat leader wants to spend money like this, he needs to say where the money would come from. It would certainly have been his refrain in opposition. The concern must be that the Tories would ensure a heavy price is paid; additional welfare cuts, presumably, or environmental measures Liberal Democrats would find it uncomfortable to support.

Indeed, the commitment made in the Liberal Democrats’ new tax policy to raise the threshold to £12,500 is not without its concerns. The policy had of course been pre-empted by statements from the Party’s leadership supporting it even before it was policy. The effects of the threshold raise to £10,000 as calculated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that the £10,000 measure is only progressive up to a point and needs to be supported by other measures, particularly the Living Wage. As I have written before, there is much misunderstanding about the Living Wage, even among Liberal Democrats whose policy is to support it: a sceptic might argue that some of this is deliberate and set out by opponents of the measure.

So to help those on the lowest incomes, a better and more helpful goal would be to raise the National Insurance threshold. That would among other things help workers in the new part-time jobs that have been predominantly those created in recent years. Part-time workers would not benefit from the £100 tax cut, but one on the minimum wage working 30 hours a week still pays £251 in National Insurance. The cost of the policy may be higher but the benefits to those who most need it would be greater. There has been far too little discussion about this, surprisingly for a party that may have difficulty delivering the £12,500 threshold in the next Parliament for fiscal reasons and which has just held a major debate about tax.

And, by the way, what is the point of branding as a “worker’s bonus” a measure that does not help part-time workers who may have caring responsibilities as well as work? Are they not “hardworking” enough, to use that dreadful political parlance, even with other commitments they may have?  The New Economics Foundation last week launched a new book promoting the benefits of a shorter working week. Low incomes of those taking up part-time posts contribute to poverty and a welfare bill which the tax threshold policy does not contribute to reducing. It would be a cruel irony if Nick Clegg’s latest initiative led to cuts that hit precisely those people he should perhaps have been seeking to help.

* Gareth Epps is a member of FPC and FCC, a member of the Fair Deal for your Local campaign coalition committee and is an active member of Britain’s largest consumer campaign, CAMRA. He claims to be marginally better at Aunt Sally than David Cameron, whom he stood against in Witney in 2001.

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

96 Comments

  • Hear hear. Well said.

  • Except:

    1. Nick said it should come from a mansion tax but that’s not likely with the Tories around. The bumper tax receipts from decent growth this year should allow a little more flexibility in the fiscal mandate though.

    2. The policy isn’t a “multi-billion pound commitment”, the BBC say it’ll cost £1bn.

    3. I think we all know and agree that raising the National Insurance thresholds would be better but it’s something that’s not in the coalition agreement or that the Tories seem to be willing to consider so will need to be post-2015!

  • “I think we all know and agree that raising the National Insurance thresholds would be better but it’s something that’s not in the coalition agreement or that the Tories seem to be willing to consider so will need to be post-2015!”

    Nor is this in the coalition agreement.

  • “The effects of the threshold raise to £10,000 as calculated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that the £10,000 measure is only progressive up to a point …”

    As a matter of fact, the graph in the report you link to shows that raising the allowance to £10,000 was actually regressive as far as income deciles 1-7 were concerned (in the sense that the benefit as a percentage of income actually rises as income gets larger). The 30% of households with the lowest incomes (as well as the 10% with the highest) received less than the average benefit.

    This is primarily about giving a boost to middle-income households.

  • Allan Heron 17th Nov '13 - 5:16pm

    So glad we’re still sticking rigidly to the Coalition Agreement. Just let me check that section on no top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

    Why do we still have separate NI contributions at all? Should be merged into income tax for employees and retitled for employers. It could be integrated into employer taxes but only if we can ensure the same revenues can be achieved and they are not lost to tax avoidance.

    I’ve never understood that when all parties go on about simplification that NI is treated like a sacred cow. Or, worse, as a means of raising tax without impacting on the basis rate of income tax.

  • A £100 tax break over the year will be felt by nobody. Its less than £2 a week. It would make no difference. Every person I’ve talked to about it today think its laughable and shows how out of touch MP’s are if they think £2 a week makes up for the last 3 years of austerity.

    We should repackage this cut as a ‘Christmas Bonus’ where the full £100 is applied to people’s pay at the end of November. Everyone feels the extra £100 just when they need it, in Decembers pay packet.

    I’d love that, everyone would love that. And everyone would love it every year.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Nov '13 - 5:52pm

    Gareth Wilson – You make an interesting point there in that there is a £10 Christmas Bonus paid out in December to various recipients https://www.gov.uk/christmas-bonus.

    However what I find interesting is that we don’t seem to be having the debate about what we should (or should not) be moving around to make the money for this available. There are arguments about further raises to the threshold, and it is good to see articles such as this ask questions of the policy. I do think that some people have got a bit starry-eyed about higher thresholds. It is good policy per se, but there are limits. Certainly I would take the point about NI reform being worth a look.

    But what it is important to remember is that the cost of this change to the threshold has to come from particular areas of spend because the Coalition has decided to throw up ringfences. I am consistently surprised by how little debate these protections have provoked across the political spectrum. The net effect of the ringfences is surely deeper cuts elsewhere in the fiscal consolidation. There have been protections for the NHS and pensioner perks whilst students, the military and local government have been clobbered. And this sort of debate is the consequence – why is Granny’s Christmas Bonus off limits for discussion if the aspiration is higher thresholds? A few months ago my Dad got his bus pass, he drives two cars. Indeed, why is the NHS a sacred cow? It is precisely these ringfences that are making the pain concentrated on certain areas and for every, ‘signature Lib Dem increase in the threshold,’ non-protected areas are taking the hit. The winter fuel payment (as distinct from cold weather payments) cost something in the order of £2bn I believe – what is the economic virtue of these ringfences over, say, higher thresholds? I feel that at some point Nick Clegg might have to give a more coherent answer if the effect of each increase is pain in non-protected areas.

    I should add in fairness to Nick he has been a bit braver than other ministers about questioning some of the ringfences, and it is to his credit.

    I do think that there is a danger that the impression might be created that the party sees the ringfences as neutral here, clearly they are not. If we want higher thresholds then it comes at the price of non-ringfenced areas of spend, not the general budget per se. Can anyone justify the Christmas Bonus in the age of austerity? And just to be clear, I think that ALL three parties need to be more forthcoming on ringfences and their justifications.

  • Paul in Twickenham 17th Nov '13 - 5:55pm

    According to the BBC in 2010-2011 there were 26.3 million basic rate (20%) taxpayers. If each of them receives a £100 “bonus” then that’s £2.6 bn. So why is this policy only costing £1 bn? Is it because (as was very helpfully pointed out on another thread) because 50% of this is already accounted for by inflation-related increases in the threshold?

    If that’s the case then it sounds like a severe dose of politics as usual: you announce that the “bonus” is £100 per taxpayer per year (i.e. you include the rise that would happen anyway) but then only use the discretionary component (ie £50 per taxpayer) to calculate the cost of the policy.

  • Paul in Twickenham 17th Nov ’13 – 5:55pm
    it sounds like a severe dose of politics as usual:

    Well spotted Paul in Twickenham.
    For half the cost of this Clegg gimmick the coalition government could scrap the hated bedroom tax.
    I seem to remember that the Liberal Democrat conference voted to scrap the bedroom tax only a few weeks ago. Maybe Clegg has forgotten?

  • Tony Greaves 17th Nov '13 - 6:53pm

    Well written, Gareth.

    By the way, the Clegg proposal is not in the Coalition agreement either.

    Tony

  • “If that’s the case then it sounds like a severe dose of politics as usual: you announce that the “bonus” is £100 per taxpayer per year (i.e. you include the rise that would happen anyway) but then only use the discretionary component (ie £50 per taxpayer) to calculate the cost of the policy.”

    Yes, that’s a good point. Would anyone like to argue that using the higher figure when telling voters the size of the tax cut, but using the lower figure when calculating how much the tax cut costs, is anything other than completely misleading?

  • @Gareth
    We should repackage this cut as a ‘Christmas Bonus’ where the full £100 is applied to people’s pay at the end of November.

    Maybe better to repackage it as an Easter Bonus payable in 2015 ….. if you know what I mean!

  • David Allen 17th Nov '13 - 7:50pm

    Clearly the pseudo-progressive junior partner in the Conservative Coalition Campaign for 2015-2020 needs to coordinate its strategy with the senior partner. The Tories will be calling for lower taxes and lower spending. The Lib Dems should therefore be allowed a carefully calibrated measure of distinctiveness that does not really amount to a difference. They can campaign for a specific reduction of taxes that is nominally targeted towards the poorer, though of course it is a good thing from our Conservative viewpoint that action on the tax threshold is, in reality, at worst mildly “progressive”. The thrust of Coalition policies must of course be to prove to rich donors that they will benefit financially from our tax cuts. It would never do to let the Lib Dems promote anything that might genuinely threaten our reputation as the friends of the super-rich.

    Fortunately, Clegg gets all that. His emphasis on tax thresholds has been worked out long ago as the perfect foil to radical right-wing conservatism. It’s just like the pupil premium, a clever device to permit a nominally “centre-left” party to support educational policies designed to increase social inequality. While we Conservatives can push through changes to favour the rich, our Lib Dem allies can dance around pretending to ameliorate their worst effects, and siphon a few votes away from Labour on that basis.

    So, with the partners in harmony on tax cuts, the stage is set for a good old scaremongering campaign. Bring back that ball and chain in the ads we stuffed John Smith with! Bring back that lightbulb we stuffed Kinnock with! Miliband will wreck the nation with the appalling taxation policies which his Marxist father indoctrinated him to impose!

  • “But I am baffled as to why so many people oppose cutting taxes on the lowest paid.”

    It’s probably because what’s being proposed is not “cutting taxes on the lowest paid”. It’s cutting taxes for all basic rate income tax payers earning more than £10,000 a year. The bulk of the tax cut would go to those on middle incomes, including people earning well above the median salary. The lowest paid – people on less than £10,000 a year – would actually get no benefit at all.

  • Little Jackie Paper 17th Nov '13 - 8:13pm

    Mr Oliver – ‘But I am baffled as to why so many people oppose cutting taxes on the lowest paid.’

    Further raises to the threshold are of benefit to those who are in work and who are not already beneath the threshold. That is not per se, ‘the lowest paid.’ I would be delighted to see tax cuts heavily targeted on the lowest paid. There is much to praise about a policy of higher thresholds – they stand as a good work incentive and help the squeezed middle. But being well targeted is not amongst the virtues of this policy, not least given the large sums involved.

    However the payment of tax is not some philosophical nicety. Everyone in society has a skin in the game. All wages, however low are in some part the product of society and its infrastructure, most notably the rule of law. As wages are in some way a product of the framework there are entirely valid arguments for the taxation of low wages. I do worry about the long-term impact of the idea that some have no, ‘stake,’ in the upkeep of our infrastructure.

    Further, as someone else has pointed out above there is no point in simply raising the threshold for the sake of it. If (stress, if) this is in some sense regressive I would hope that this policy is not pursued out of some starry-eyed dogma and is properly thought out. Assuming, of course, that the lowest paid are in fact the targets for any benefits here.

    There are, of course, other tax cuts that would help the poor. VAT for example or Council Tax. Indeed, to be provocative, given that poor people tend to be more likely to smoke a cut to tobacco tax would be a tax cut that would help poor people. Or taxes on alcohol. Would you support those tax cuts for the poor out of interest? Or would that be baffling?

    In many ways the threshold changes are no different to any other change to tax in the sense that they key question is how it is paid for and where does it go. Without talking about what is sacrificed for this threshold change, we are only looking at half the story. You talk about taxes in the lowest paid – great. I think though that the point some of the critics are making is that this does not appear to be aimed at the lowest paid.

    And who is John out of interest?

  • @ Gareth Epps

    I’m not so sure giving this tax break as a whole lump in November is a gimmick. There are millions of people who at the end of each month have spent every penny they earned on regular household bills. They are *terrified* of how they are going to pay for Christmas this year, they can barely make ends meet month to month.

    A quick straw poll of people in a similar situation to me (mid thirties, young children, utterly skint) all thought it was a great idea. Very few of us actually save for Christmas effectively, with most bunging it on the credit card and paying it off over the rest of the year.

    Understand it would add some complication to the tax codes but think of the happiness it’d bring – it’d pay for Christmas dinner across the UK 😉

    I just wish politicians would come up with policies that actually mean something to people. £2 a week better off vs Christmas presents paid for every year. Know what I’d prefer.

  • Well said Gareth.

    We urgently need to restore adequate benefits levels for working age people, as we have done with pensions – giving working age people the security of a decent safety net. This will restore the dignity of work, and prevent the wage erosion of recent years.

    We also need to directly challenge the Tories on their cuts to social security, which have so badly affected those on low incomes – this is core lib-dem principles where we should be differentiating ourselves:
    Oppose the bedroom tax and cuts which leave people homeless,
    No to forced labour for inadequate benefits,
    No to benefits sanctions that leave people destitute.

  • Graham Evans 17th Nov '13 - 9:15pm

    Surely the long term objective of raising tax thresholds is to move away from a situation in which people are taxed on income and are then given some of their tax payments back through the benefit structure. This should be a quite distinct objective, not directly related to income redistribution. Moreover, when we talk about the low paid we should distinguish between those with a low income because they only work part-time and those who work full-time but on a low hourly rate. IMO the priority in terms of tax reform should be to eliminate anyone working full-time (40 he/wk) on the NMA of £6.31 having to pay income tax while in receipt of benefits. This would mean a tax threshold of £13,000. (Those who are concerned about people in part-time work should therefore concentrate their attention on the benefit system, rather than criticising reform of the tax system)!.

  • Nick T Nick Thornsby 17th Nov '13 - 9:52pm

    Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said at conference last year that every £500 increase costs approximately £1bn if the higher rate band is left unchanged.

  • Peter Davies 17th Nov '13 - 10:02pm

    @Graham Evans
    The problem is not that people both receive benefit and pay tax it’s that they will be taxed at 65% through universal benefit withdrawal (worse under the current system) as well as 20% income tax and 12% employees’ NI. Unfortunately it’s impossible to integrate these while benefit is based on monthly income while income tax is annual.

  • This move would cost significantly more than a billion pounds, though I am hamstrung slightly in what I can say, in not being confident that the figures I have are in the public domain.

  • Richard Church 17th Nov '13 - 10:50pm

    Increasing the threshold to £10,500 means the policy barely keeps pace with inflation since it was first promised. The proposal though is to fund it by the mansion tax, which of course the Tories won’t accept. Raising the income tax threshold has been a good policy ,and we must ensure that it keeps pace with inflation, but we need to be looking at other taxes to help people on part time work and no work. VAT, National Insurance and taxes on fuel bills.

  • Gareth Roberts 17th Nov '13 - 11:28pm

    I agree with Gareth!

  • I getting kind of bored of personal tax threshold raises being billed as targeted at the poor. They’re not. Yes, the %age benefit is highest for the lower paid (but not lowest paid) but most of the actual money doesn’t go to the working poor, it goes on people around the median salary. You want to spend a billion helping the poor? Try reversing some of the many cuts targeted the poorest in society.

  • Jack 17th Nov ’13 – 11:39pm
    I am getting kind of bored of personal tax threshold raises being billed as targeted at the poor.
    … … most of the actual money doesn’t go to the working poor, it goes on people around the median salary.

    Yes, I genuinely think that Nick Clegg really does not understand this point.
    It possibly reveals a rather shallow approach to the whole question of helping “the poor”. Pointing to Clegg’s own background and obvious financial comfort is often a cheap shot but in my lifetime I have known many well-off or rich people who genuinely do not have a clue. Such people within the Liberal Democrats are often very well-intentioned and sometimes well educated. But when it comes to understanding for example the practical impact of the bedroom tax they have not got a clue.
    These are not evil or uncaring people. They are just ignorant of the day to day facts of life for those people who did not have rich parents and did not go to an elite public school . For those with an elite background differential income tax rates and marginal fiddling with thresholds probably make sense.
    If you are struggling with an additional £1,000 a year on top of your rent bill because of the bedroom tax, Nick Clegg’s tax wheeze is about as much use as Nero’s contribution to music.

  • jedibeeftrix 18th Nov '13 - 8:26am

    an excellent policy, providing it goes hand in hand with a plan to repeal universal working benefits.

    taxing people to the hilt, and then giving it back in tax credits is pernicious, and it’s about time we rolled back labour’s client state.

  • “Yes, I genuinely think that Nick Clegg really does not understand this point.”

    Don’t you believe it. Remember that the forerunner of this policy was a simply 4p cut in the basic rate of income tax. “Helping the poor” is just window-dressing.

  • Toby Fenwick 18th Nov '13 - 9:26am

    Gareth,

    An excellent article, with which I largely agree. But though it is harder to explain on the doorstep, it is more sensible for us to focus on NICs – both employee and employer amongst the lowest paid. And we should also remember that the UK is still borrowing more than £100bn this year, and I’d rather solve that problem first rather than additional tax cuts – because as you rightly say, this will only end up with additional compensatory spending cuts.

  • Joe

    What is “breathtaking”? That people are actually looking at the figures rather than blithely accepting the propaganda about “helping the poor”?

    My observation, in fact, was that the forerunner of the policy of raising the allowance was the Liberal Democrat policy of cutting income tax by 4p in the pound – nothing to do with Labour and the Conservatives.

    “But still, it remains wrong in principle to levy income tax on anyone working full time for the minimum wage, or even the living wage.”

    I think taking people on the minimum wage out of tax would be an admirable objective. But why not devise a way of doing that without giving a multi-billion pound tax cut to everyone on the basic rate, including people earning well above the median salary – with the all multi-billion pound cuts to expenditure and/or other tax rises that would involve?

    Would that be beyond the wit of man?

  • I’m rather saddened by the number of commenters queueing up here to slag off this policy. I have a feeling that they are not actually Lib Dem members or supporters, just Labour voters who’ve come along with the same arguments they have always used to try and knock our policies, primarily because their party didn’t think of them first.

    If the £10,000 personal allowance was a good idea, why does the £10,500 personal allowance suddenly become a bad one? I think that for many people here it is simply because Nick Clegg is proposing it, and had it been Ed Miliband promoting it suddenly it would have become the best idea since sliced bread.

    One major factor that many people ignore here is the matter of incentives. Our economy is currently creating jobs at a rate of knots. Oh, those clever, clever detractors say, having a £10,500 personal allowance doesn’t help the lowest paid because they don’t earn that much. But their point utterly ignores the incentives a higher personal allowance creates for people to move from low earnings to higher earnings. People do not stay on one wage for ever and a day. In our current economy, as full time jobs are created, a higher personal allowance gives incentives for people to move out of part time and into full time employment or generally to work more hours.

    People are making the mistake of viewing earnings as a static, unchanging figure, whereas in fact, given the right positive incentives, that is often not the case.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Nov '13 - 10:21am

    RC, “In our current economy, as full time jobs are created, a higher personal allowance gives incentives for people to move out of part time and into full time employment or generally to work more hours.”

    If you haven’t already, I suggest you get up early and go along to the nearest supermarket ‘staff exit’ to talk to the cleaners leaving after doing their couple of hours work – not for the supermarket but for the arms length company the supermarket has set up to employ cleaners on zero hours contracts.

    Until they can no longer find anyone left in the country to work sub-16 hours will they even think about upping the hours and giving greater employment stability. I cannot believe that an educated person such as yourself can seriously think that, over the last four years the legions on zero hour contracts haven’t desperately wanted to work more hours than they are given?

    It is not the employees that need an incentive to move out of part time work, it is the employers who need disincentives from exploiting the powerless.

  • @RC
    “If the £10,000 personal allowance was a good idea, why does the £10,500 personal allowance suddenly become a bad one? ”
    Juggling balls?
    Basically, the increase in personal allowance will help basic rate tax payers, however, it does nothing for non-taxpayers (working or not). It therefore makes sense to focus this aid more effectively. I suggest it should be paid out to all ‘taxpayers’ who’s 2012/13 tax return (submitted before 31-Jan-14) shows they didn’t pay income tax in that tax year.

  • jenny barnes 18th Nov '13 - 10:39am

    There’s much talk about how increasing the income tax threshold benefits the low paid, but I’ve seen nothing on how it benefits low paying employers. If every hour of work needs £10 to pay for it, and the taxman takes £2, then the worker gets £8. Increase the tax threshold and the employer can now pay £8 fro £8 of work. It’s not always the person who appears to be paying the tax who actually pays it.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Nov '13 - 10:56am

    Warning: this is not a defense of this announcement but an explanation:

    Clegg and his team know exactly what they are doing. It’s all polling based.

    Polling shows that the only positive thing people associate with the Liberal Democrats is the raising of personal allowances.

    Therefore this announcement is considered in the bunker to be ‘smart’ in two ways:

    First, it reminds people of that positive association with personal allowances, and

    Second, it plays to the master strategy of targeting the 25% identified by party strategist, Ryan Coetzee – a strategy pointed to by Andy Bodders on this site 10 days ago: https://www.libdemvoice.org/lib-link-are-the-liberal-democrats-a-lea-perrins-party-37110.html

    Quoting from Telegraph journalist Isobel Hardman: (why do strategists always want everyone to know their strategy, I wonder)

    “Mr Clegg, meanwhile, is delivering a series of speeches based on detailed polling by party strategist Ryan Coetzee of the 25 per cent of voters who would either vote Lib Dem tomorrow or consider doing so. Mr Coetzee listed 110 policy propositions, stating the negatives of each: it was made clear, for example, that a rise in the personal allowance for income tax would have to be funded by public-spending cuts. The answers have shaped the content of Clegg’s speeches on Europe, education and the environment. Further polling next month will do the same for more interventions.”

    We are no longer a party campaigning to work with people to help them take and use power: the jobless, the vulnerable; not even the poorly paid and exploited.

    No, we are trying to be the Party of “Tunbridge Wells” – the anxious aspiring new middle class, of the gated community, anxious behind its mock Georgian windows to have the right cars on the driveway, buy the right wallpaper for the ‘lounge’, use the right words at the fundraising bar-b-cue, do the right thing at the health club and chant the right mantra during Sunday devotion at the farmers’ market.

    You may recall, that this is exactly what Mandelson brought to Labour first with Kinnock, then Smith, then Blair. It is unprincipled exploitative manipulation – it is not Liberalism. It is selling our political soul to the devil for a 20% cut of the action.

    It won’t work. But it will help a few people get their next job.

  • “Chris, yes breathtaking that the Liberal Democrats have moved this issue (and delivered in government) a long way in the direction you argue for, against the policy record of the other parties, and yet you still seem very unhappy about this.
    Of course you have every right to be unhappy all the time, but when we are talking about whether a policy is good or bad, let’s compare it with the alternatives that exist.”

    Joe

    You don’t actually seem to be reading my comments.

    Giving a tax cut to all basic rate income tax payers, including many on well above the median salary, is not the right direction to go in, as far as I’m concerned – particularly if that is so expensive that it has to be paid for by other measures which penalise the low-paid (including those who are paid so little that they won’t benefit at all from the tax cut), which is what has happened so far under this government.

    As I have said, the obvious alternative – if the party is really concerned primarily about the low-paid – is to target tax cuts towards them in a more selective way. I notice that you simply ignore that suggestion.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Nov '13 - 12:20pm

    Well said Bill.

  • “But still, it remains wrong in principle to levy income tax on anyone working full time for the minimum wage, or even the living wage.”

    Why? I would argue the exact opposite is true. We should expect all working people to contribute towards the commonweal. Instead, we should be aiming to distribute the wealth of society such that those working on lower wages are able to do so and continue to have enough to live on. This means we should be concentrating on raising wages (mandating the living wage on all government jobs and all companies taking government money might be a start) and dealing with the housing problem and bringing rents under control rather than ill-targeted cuts in taxation that fail to benefit a great many of the poorest in society. Remember that a raise in the personal allowance will not do a single thing for someone working part time, for example.

    Today’s news that the rich few have seen a 14% pay rise while the government freezes the benefits and pay of the majority brings this into stark relief.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Nov '13 - 12:29pm

    Stephen Tall has just been on the Daily Politics defending this policy.

    Can he, or someone else explain how this helps two parents struggling along on two part time jobs which pay the minimum wage. How it helps those on zero hour contracts who aren’t earning £10000? It won’t give those families an extra £100. However, it WILL give out an extra £100 to many who are not suffering.

  • Robin Stafford 18th Nov '13 - 12:48pm

    Spot on Jack – playing politics by trying to be seen as ‘tax cutters’ is not tackling the real problem of low pay and the massively unequal distribution of the proceeds of business that have evolved over the last 10-20 years

    Its also unsustainable economics – where the majority of the population are not earning enough to buy goods and services with getting into debt or being ‘subsidised’ by government.

    And I’ve spent most of my life working in business – I’m not anti-capitalist – just anti the form of capitalism that has distorted our economy over the last few decades

  • While we fight a tribal war between Labour tax credits and benefits for the “feckless” poor versus Lib Dem raised tax thresholds for the “deserving” poor, we miss the reality as explained by Jenny Barnes. It is exploitative employers who benefit from both forms of state support. If low paid workers are left untaxed by the State, or are given benefits by the State, then the employer can get away with paying even lower wage rates without losing the worker.

    We need a minimum wage, one that means what it says, one that is enough to live on, and one that can’t be made a dead letter by clever avoidance schemes such as internships.

    That’s actually more important than our squabbles with Labour, though our leaders cannot be expected to recognise that. The public, who don’t wear the blinkers of party politics, can recognise it.

  • David Allen 18th Nov '13 - 1:17pm

    Chris,

    It’s a side issue, but I think you are being a little unfair about the original Lib Dem proposal for a 4p cut in income tax. This surfaced as part of Huhne’s “Green Tax Switch”, a revenue-neutral plan to tax pollution and carbon emissions while handing all the money back as income tax reductions. It was not, at the time, designed to shrink the state. On the contrary, it was Huhne trying very hard to persuade a sceptical electorate that green policies didn’t have to mean a stealth increase in taxation. It is a pity we didn’t stick with that approach.

    Then, of course, Clegg took command, revenue neutrality went out the window, and “Big Permanent Tax Cuts” became the rallying cry. As you indicate, this certainly was about shrinking the state and aligning with the Right. It has since been fine-tuned into a cunning plan whereby the Lib Dem campaign for seemingly progressive tax cuts all round dovetails neatly into Tory plans to concentrate the most important tax relaxations on their supporters amongst the rich and powerful.

  • Liberal Neil 18th Nov '13 - 2:56pm

    “As a matter of fact, the graph in the report you link to shows that raising the allowance to £10,000 was actually regressive as far as income deciles 1-7 were concerned (in the sense that the benefit as a percentage of income actually rises as income gets larger). The 30% of households with the lowest incomes (as well as the 10% with the highest) received less than the average benefit.”

    This is not as clear cut as the graph suggests though, because it is trying to compare a cut in income tax, which is based on the individual, and household income deciles, based on household income.

    So a household with two adults each earning a below average salary, bringing up kids in an average house, will see a disproportionately large increase in the net income as a result of receiving this tax cut twice over. Many such households will be in the 4th – 8th deciles but are by no means well off, in fact there’s a good chance they’re struggling.

    In fact the vast majority of people in deciles 1-8 are not likely to be particularly well off, except for single people in full time employment on above average salaries.

  • Liberal Neil 18th Nov '13 - 3:00pm

    @Jack “We should expect all working people to contribute towards the commonweal(th).”

    But there are a lot more taxes than Income Tax. On average households in the bottom three deciles pay about £4,500 pa in other taxes.

    I think there is a very strong argument that people on low incomes should not pay income based taxes. It is also the case that large savings in the cost of running the system are made every time you take a significant number of people out of paying any particular tax.

  • Liberal Neil

    Yes, the IFS analysis is based on household income, as I indicated. (And that income is “equivalised” – i.e. adjusted to take account of the size of the family.)

    As for many households in the 4th-8th deciles struggling, of course they may be struggling if they have large outgoings. A millionaire can struggle to make ends meet if he has a sufficiently lavish lifestyle. But the fact remains that they have much larger incomes than households of similar size in the 1st-3rd deciles. Many at the bottom end will be struggling just to survive.

  • Bill le Breton 18th Nov '13 - 4:49pm

    Neil, great argument for a basic income.

  • Liberal Neil 18th Nov '13 - 4:54pm

    @Gareth “To various people: merging the tax and NI thresholds was the subject of a review in the early part of this Parliament which (to my knowledge) has not yet reported. I suspect equalising thresholds would take place at a figure under £10,000 unless significant money was found from somewhere. And with the free school meal announcement still to be paid for, I can’t see that extra money.”

    We shouldn’t just aim to merge the thresholds, we should merge the taxes into a combined income tax.

    That could allow for a higher basic allowance and a more progressive set of bands and still be much simpler and more transparent overall. The gainers would be those at the bottom to middle and the losers would be those who currently pay little or no NI.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Nov '13 - 5:13pm

    RC

    I’m rather saddened by the number of commenters queueing up here to slag off this policy. I have a feeling that they are not actually Lib Dem members or supporters, just Labour voters who’ve come along with the same arguments they have always used to try and knock our policies, primarily because their party didn’t think of them first.

    I have been a member of the party for 35 years. I was a councillor for 12 years in a Labour-run borough – leader of the opposition for half those years.

    RC – I KNOW very well why I am not a Labour voter, so please don’t insult me in this way.

    My first reaction to Clegg’s question “Would you like a £100 tax cut” was “No”. The reason is that we are constantly told how poor the nation’s finances are, how we must cut the deficit. We are also constantly seeing damage, sorrow, and misery caused by the government trying to cut down public expenditure. Under those circumstances, well, no I don’t think a tax cut for me should be a priority, I’d rather the money be spent on all these things it needs to be spent on, so long as everyone else with my level of income also has to pay it.

    To me this “would you like a tax cut” message is an appeal to my greed, to my lack of social concern, it is trying to make out I am someone who cares only for his pocket and not for the well-being of the nation. If this is what the Liberal Democrats are now about, they’re not a party I want to support.

    This is not to say I’m that comfortable financially. Yes, my income has gone down in real terms considerably over the past few years. My union called a strike last month on the grounds that our pay has gone down in real terms by 13%. Seeing one’s oay gradually diminish in this way is hard – one has to keep making decisions to cut spending on things one used to enjoy. But I know I’m better off than many who haven’t got jobs at all, or who are so low paid that the tax cuts proposed will make no difference to them. I know there are many – mostly the poorer people in our society – who have suffered much more than me due to this austerity, so I’m prepared to take my share of it, that’s fairness, isn’t it? Not only that, I do it for the sake of this nation and its people. People in the past were asked to contribute much more for the nation, as we remembered recently, even their lives. What’s a £100 of tax compared to that?

    I would ask also, however, that if I am prepared to take on my share, those in a position to take on more than that because they are wealthier should also do so, for the sake of the mation and its people. If we are in the crisis the government tells us we are, all must pull together, and surely that must mean those who can bear the most bearing the most. We should be looking first at the windfall dollops of pure cash so many people are getting for doing nothing but sitting owning things like housing, or rather for having parents who did that and have died. Asking that one gives a share of cash dollop inheritance more than has been asked for in the past is surely a lot less sacrifice than what was asked for when we sent our young men out to war. If we are in the crisis our leaders tell us that needs such austerity measures, such as the removal of housing subsidy that has forced some people out of their houses, surely a bit more share of cash dollops is not too much to ask?

    From what I hear in so many places, the austerity measures we have now are damaging in the long term, they will result in more enforced spending in the long term. Let’s pull together to reverse that. No to the mentality of greed that Clegg embodies in this message. Yes to us all working together and contributing what we can to rebuilding our nation.

  • Graham Evans 18th Nov '13 - 7:13pm

    There appears to be significant body of opinion within this forum that tax cuts and benefit improvements (or the avoidance of benefit cuts) should be targeted at the poorest members of society. The practical effect of such an approach would in fact be a further extension of means testing. Not only would this lead to perverse incentives in which striving to marginally improve one’s financial lot becomes a pointless endeavour, but the evidence from other societies suggests that concentrating state financial support on the poor ultimately leads to poor benefits. This is because the majority of the population and electorate feel themselves divorced from the system, and become unwilling to support through their taxes a system which appears to offer them personally few benefits or incentives. Therefore, even in times of financial austerity, any tax cuts, whether by higher tax thresholds or a lower rate of tax, must be more broadly distributed, rather than merely being concentrated on the very poor. Any political party which sees its absolute priority as improving the lot of the very poor, or even just gives the impression of wishing to pursue such an approach, will not only fail to gain much electoral support, but ultimately will have done the very poor no favours whatsoever.
    e

  • Not that fussed about the £100 but I wouldn’t mind universal CB and free uni tuition being reinstated. I guess that I am not Nicks target audience as none of his mails strike a chord.

  • Graham Evans 18th Nov '13 - 8:56pm

    Gareth Epps seems to have totally missed the point I was making, and I certainly wasn’t suggesting that raising the tax threshold disproportionately benefits the poor. On the contrary, I am suggesting that in a time of austerity helping the “squeezed middle”, even if the benefit to the poor is less and to the very poor non-existent, can sometimes be in the long term interests of both the poor and very poor.

    Incidentally, I notice that Gareth also fails to address my other major criticism of his approach, namely that at a practical level targaretting help on the poor and very poor means extending means-testing.

  • Why does giving more help to the poor mean extending means testing. The level of benefit attached to existing means testing is separate to the existing scope of benefit testing.

  • Peter Davies 19th Nov '13 - 12:58am

    We are all already means-tested. You can’t really have a progressive income tax without it. The difference with benefits is needs-testing.

  • Paul In Twickenham 19th Nov '13 - 6:24am

    Well I guess there’s a first time for everything… I agree with Polly Toynbee! http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/19/autumn-statement-middle-class-about-to-be-bribed

  • I am amazed about this anti-Toynbee thing! I can’t say I agree with everything she writes, but more often than not.

  • RC 18th Nov ’13 – 9:44am
    I’m rather saddened by the number of commenters queueing up here to slag off this policy. I have a feeling that they are not actually Lib Dem members or supporters, just Labour voters

    This is a bit rich coming from someone who hides behind title “RC”.
    Does RC stand for Rich Conservative or is it just Onomatopoeia?

  • This shows why any contribution by Bill le Breton is always worth reading . It s perfect! Sums up so much of what is wrong with Cleggworld.

    Bill le Breton 18th Nov ’13 – 10:56am
    No, we are trying to be the Party of “Tunbridge Wells” – the anxious aspiring new middle class, of the gated community, anxious behind its mock Georgian windows to have the right cars on the driveway, buy the right wallpaper for the ‘lounge’, use the right words at the fundraising bar-b-cue, do the right thing at the health club and chant the right mantra during Sunday devotion at the farmers’ market.

    You may recall, that this is exactly what Mandelson brought to Labour first with Kinnock, then Smith, then Blair. It is unprincipled exploitative manipulation – it is not Liberalism. It is selling our political soul to the devil for a 20% cut of the action.

  • Graham Evans 19th Nov '13 - 8:00am

    If you reduce tax levels you can only avoid benefitting those on middle and higher incomes by introducing some sort of means-testing to the tax bands. This is precisely what has happened to the upper tax rate when this was lowered to prevent higher rate tax payers benefitting disproportionately from the raising of the lower threshold. This action totally contradicted the move towards aligning the upper tax threshold with the UEL for NI. Similarly when the 50p tax rate was introduced changes had to be made to the tax allowance on pension contributions to prevent top rate payers avoiding having to pay the 50p rate. We also now have a situation in which the tax system is being used to means-test child benefit. One doesn’thave to be in favour of a flat rate tax system to want a simpler structure which people perceive as fair. Instead however we are not only means-testing benefits but in effect introducing more and more means-testing into the tax system and making the tax system even more complicated.

  • Graham Evans 19th Nov '13 - 8:12am

    I might add that it seems to me that those criticising the raising of the lower tax threshold are really saying that they are fundamentally opposed to any tax reductions when means-tested benefits are being cut or the qualification criteria tightened. I respect this approach but I doubt that it would find much support among the wider electorate. As such I would argue that ultimately this approach is more likely to damage the interests of the poor rather than defend them.

  • “This action totally contradicted the move towards aligning the upper tax threshold with the UEL for NI. ”

    I’m sure tidiness and simplicity are nice as abstract concepts, but are they really more important than protecting the poor and vulnerable?

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Nov '13 - 8:51am

    I agree with Graham’s points – means testing the tax bands seems rather unfair and has produced a situation at the moment where your personal tax free allowance starts to be taken away if you earn over £100,000 to the point where you don’t even get one if you earn over £118,880. Alistair Darling introduced this and I think the Lib Dems should remove it.

    The beauty of increasing the personal allowance or the national insurance threshold should be that everybody benefits from it, otherwise it will just create resentment. I fully respect the compassion that people have when they want limited resources to be focused on the very poorest, I just think the government should look after all of society.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Nov '13 - 9:18am

    Without the very poorest the fat cats wouldn’t be able to give themselves so much cream.

    We need to understand just how interdependent we all our. It’s called society.

    Which is why that ‘membership’ of our society should be recognized by the provision of a basic or citizens income for all. Thus everyone including the super rich should receive it – we are all in it together. And thus it removes the stigma and admin costs of ‘benefits’ which would disappear.

    The tax system would do the rest. It used to be our policy and it has some surprising advocates from across the political spectrum.

    We could also tie the size of the basic income to the monetary value of the Gross Domestic Product – so that everyone had a stake in the prosperity of the country.

  • Eddie Sammon, about 0.5% of the population earn above £100k. Frankly, I don’t care, and I suspect 99% of everybody else doesn’t either, if a tax policy creates resentment amongst this demographic. It’s not electorally significant, and, given that average UK income is ~£26k it cannot be argued that these people are in need of the money relative to the rest of us.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Nov '13 - 9:37am

    I just emailed the editor of the Guardian’s Comment is Free to complain about the Polly Toynbee article and do some fact debunking. I know provocation is her style, but saying the Lib Dems focus on the middle to upper sections of society and this tax allowance expansion will benefit the top half of society the most is totally misleading and completely unfair, given the highest earners won’t see a penny of it.

    It just devalues the Guardian and Lib Dems should not be championing an ardent Labour supporter who seeks to mislead people over Liberal Democrat policies.

  • Graham Evans 19th Nov '13 - 12:33pm

    g might not care about the 0.5% of the population who earn more than £100k per annum, though this section of society is precisely those who can afford to pay others to come up with means of avoiding actually paying the higher taxes. However, I assume he is equally dismissive of families with children where one partner is just into the 40% tax band, compared to those families with two incomes, both just below the 40% level. Unless you have a tax system which is perceived as fair across the board, those who can afford to will do everything possible to reduce their tax to a bare minimum.

    As for Chris’s comments regarding simplicity, there is plenty of evidence that the more complex your tax system, the more people devote resources to minimising their tax payments. The result is often a lower tax take from the better off.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Nov '13 - 12:39pm

    Eddie, it is probable that Toynbee is taking her lead from Isobel Hardman who was taking her lead from someone in Liberal Democrat High Command who spun her this story: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/nick-clegg/10433018/Nick-Clegg-is-playing-to-hismost-loyal-voters-the-green-middle-class.html which went under the title: Nick Clegg is playing to his most loyal voters – the green middle-class.

    I am sorry but we cannot have it every-which way: if the Leadership say they are targeting the Middle Class it undermines claims such as yours that ‘we aren’t targeting the middle class’.

    Also, if you haven’t already, you should read Mark Pack’s latest update on this strategy published a couple of posts above this one.

    One of the downsides of a) adopting such a Mandelsonian/Blairite strategy and b) telling everyone you are doing this, is that it becomes impossible to view a story like https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-im-extremely-proud-to-be-part-of-a-government-that-looks-to-the-future-of-lgbt-rights-37239.html without questioning the true motives behind it.

    When ‘trust’ is your Achilles heel, it is even more perplexing.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Nov '13 - 1:03pm

    Bill, I never said we aren’t targeting the middle class, I said we aren’t targeting the middle to upper class.

    g, OK.

  • “As for Chris’s comments regarding simplicity, there is plenty of evidence that the more complex your tax system, the more people devote resources to minimising their tax payments.”

    Those comments were made in response to yours about the equalisation of the upper income tax threshold and the UEL.

    You are surely not suggesting that this would make any difference to the opportunities for tax avoidance?

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Nov '13 - 1:16pm

    g, we’ll agree to disagree on whether resentment among the top 0.5% is a significant factor. I don’t like leaving any debate on bad terms.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 1:21pm

    Eddie Sammon

    I just emailed the editor of the Guardian’s Comment is Free to complain about the Polly Toynbee article and do some fact debunking. I know provocation is her style, but saying the Lib Dems focus on the middle to upper sections of society and this tax allowance expansion will benefit the top half of society the most is totally misleading and completely unfair

    Yes, but that’s what I was getting at. Much of what is coming from our Leader and those surrounding him seems designed to bolster this sort of attack on us. Since the coalition started, Clegg has been constantly saying and doing things which can be interpreted as the Liberal Democrats having moved away from what they used to stand for and now standing instead for something which is essentially Conservative Party economics, just without those few small-c conservative things that you still find among Conservatives that aren’t strictly economic. This income tax thing is an example, the fact is that it WON’T help the poorest people who are struggling the most, because they don’t have enough income to benefit from a further rise in the tax allowance, but it will benefit people on middle and upper earnings. The very words put in Clegg’s mouth “Do you want a £100 tax cut?” seem designed to appeal to the mentality of greed, to suggest that’s what we’re now about in the Liberal Democrats. As it happened, the original manifesto policy was “fair tax”, with cuts in income tax balanced by other forms of taxation. So implementing one half of the manifesto policy isn’t really implementing the manifesto promise if it is balanced by the other half. The boasts that it is coming from our leadership which ignore the context the policy came with very much DO suggest a big switch to the right in the party. Our party’s democratic mechanism has never endorsed such a switch. Mr Clegg has NO RIGHT to make it. Our endorsement of the coalition was very much on the grounds that we accepted it as necessary due to the balance in Parliament, and NOT on any sort of grounds of ideological closeness to the Conservatives or general move in our party that way. Mr Clegg has NO RIGHT to imply otherwise. If he does so, it is NOT with our consent – he, as the person we put in place to do the job he is doing, is our employee, and employees who disobey their employers and keep on doing so even after being warned about it must face up to where that leads to – the sack.

    Sure, many of the attacks on us our unfair, I myself have defended many times, including letters to the Guardian, and I am one of very few of their correspondents who has done this, the way in which the balance if Parliament forces us to compromise on our ideals. If there is one thing that keeps me in the party it is the unfair and unrealistic attacks on us coming from the political left, I don’t want to be associated with their fantasy world. We know the reality is we have the government we have because the way the people voted and the distortions of the electoral system (enthusiastically backed by many leading Labour Party figures, and explicitly opposed by NONE of them) gave it to us, it is fantasy to suggest we chose it and could have chosen instead a completely different government. We know the economic situation is grim, and whichever government we had now would be faced with difficult choices. Attacks on us which ignore all that are juvenile. However, anyone who ever had dealings with the Labour Party ought to have KNOWN that’s what we would get – that is what Labour does when they lose, they throw abuse, they make up a fantasy world in which all would be wonderful if they had won, they don’t bother making realistic policies because they think the abuse and negativity will get the pendulum swinging back to them.

    That’s why we should have been sure from the start not to have given them ammunition, not to have said or done anything which might help get the mud to stick, not to give the impression, even if unintended, that we had entered the coalition because we really were “yellow Tories” underneath, not to give the impression that entering the coalition meant a permanent and willing shift to the political right. Since it was formed, Mr Clegg has done the opposite. He is doing it now. We are in a thread where we are discussing it.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 1:30pm

    Bill le Breton

    One of the downsides of a) adopting such a Mandelsonian/Blairite strategy and b) telling everyone you are doing this, is that it becomes impossible to view a story like https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-im-extremely-proud-to-be-part-of-a-government-that-looks-to-the-future-of-lgbt-rights-37239.html without questioning the true motives behind it.

    Indeed. The thing about LBGT rights is that it doesn’t cost any money. It doesn’t interfere with hard right economic views. It’s a sort of historical thing in some elements of the Conservative Party from a time when that party was more about social conservatism and less about hard right economics than is the case now.

    So it’s a way of looking distinct from the Conservatives by going on and on about fairly fringe issues (and, sorry, but whether one calls a state recognised relationship between two people of the same sex “marriage” or “civil partnership” IS a fringe issue, and WILL be seen as utterly trivial by most people who are worried about things like jobs and housing and whether they can pay their bills rather than the exact legal status of what everyone was already calling “gay marriage” anyway) while hiding from apparent closeness on core issues. I am sorry, but I think this IS how it will be interpreted by most of the sort of person who once used to consider voting for us, but now despises us as “just another bunch of out-of-touch politicians”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 1:51pm

    Bill le Breton

    No, we are trying to be the Party of “Tunbridge Wells” – the anxious aspiring new middle class, of the gated community, anxious behind its mock Georgian windows to have the right cars on the driveway, buy the right wallpaper for the ‘lounge’, use the right words at the fundraising bar-b-cue, do the right thing at the health club and chant the right mantra during Sunday devotion at the farmers’ market.

    Yes, and if you ever go to Tunbridge Wells or any of many other small towns in the south, and look PROPERLY at them, you will find this is an incorrect stereotype.

    There are council estates, there are people on low incomes, there are people who can’t afford ANY property let alone big houses in gated communities in Tunbridge Wells. And GUESS WHAT – these people who are poorer and less privileged that than stereotype form the MAJORITY of the population in these places! Just because arty-farty journalists from privileged backgrounds, or moved down from the north to live in these sort of places only mix with their own type and so think everyone else there is like them write comment on that basis does not mean that is really how it is. Who does the dirty work in the south? Who cleans the streets? Who serves in the shops? Who works as care assistants and admin assistants in hospitals and all those jobs? REAL southerners, millions and millions of them, and from the press and what the political elite say, you might as well suppose they don’t exist, that fairies do all these jobs.

    And, do you know what? These fairies were once the BEDROCK of our support in the south. They didn’t want to vote Labour because Labour gave the impression they were only interest in the north and urban areas, and they didn’t want to vote Conservative because they didn’t want to vote for the party of the rich. Mostly they apathetically split their vote between the two, until we came along and offered them a real voice. That’s why we started winning some of those seats in the south that were once considered “true blue”, Tory forever. Look at where we started off in Lewes and Eastbourne and the like – on the council estates, on the small mean housing estates often hidden from view that REAL southerners live in. I grew up in one of these places, it is where my heart is.

    And now, so we are told, our party’s strategy is to THROW AWAY that vote. To ignore those people, or to suppose they really are fairies so they don’t have the vote. Or to suggest though they’ve been voting for us for decades, it’s only really “borrowed from Labour”, so we should abandon it, tell those people, and me as one of them attracted to the Liberals as the first party that seemed to show an interest in us, that we should “go back to Labour”. Instead we should go in pursuit of that big vote that was going to come flocking to us through being so impressed with seeing Liberal Democrat ministers standing at the dispatch box, or in pursuit of that big vote of people who wanted an ideological hard line free market party that was like the Tories but free of their old-style social Conservatism.

    That’s where we are now. Where’s that vote? Why, after having done all the elite strategists from the PR and advertising world told us we should do, are we going down, down, down in the opinion polls rather than up, up, up?

  • David Allen 19th Nov '13 - 3:19pm

    Yes Matthew, but we’re not there to win elections these days. We are there to siphon a few pale pink votes away from Labour so that our Conservative allies, who generously give us government jobs, can win the elections.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov ’13 – 1:51pm
    Who does the dirty work in the south? Who cleans the streets? Who serves in the shops? Who works as care assistants and admin assistants in hospitals and all those jobs? REAL southerners

    Matthew, I agree with much of what you say here (as I usually agree with your analysis). But on who does the work in the south I would suggest that some of it is done by Polish, Estonian, Romanian, Somali, Portuguese, Bangla Deshi and other recent arrivals. And thank goodness they have come because the NHS and a lot of other organisations would collapse without them. I would class as REAL southerners the second, third and fourth generation Jamaican, India, Pakistani and Sri Lankans who have been in he South a lot longer. A lot longer than me.
    My family moved south in 1960 from Manchester so I do not class myself as a southerner at all.

  • Bill le Breton 19th Nov '13 - 4:22pm

    Matthew, I wasn’t aware that the real Tunbridge Wells [18th Nov ’13 – 10:56am] had quotation marks around it 😉

    It all reminds me of “The Hunting of the Snark”. WikiP is helpful in describing the scene in the Bunker’s War Room the day Parliament in prorogued in 2015:

    “After crossing the sea guided by the Bellman’s map of the Ocean—a blank sheet of paper—the hunting party arrive in a strange land, and the Bellman informs them of the five signs of a Snark: its “meagre and hollow, but crisp” taste; a habit of rising late and taking breakfast during five o’clock tea; “its slowness in taking a jest”; a “fondness for bathing-machines”; and its ambition. The Bellman warns them that some Snarks are highly dangerous Boojums, causing the Baker to faint. Once revived, the Baker recalls that his uncle warned him that if the Snark turns out to be a Boojum, the hunter will “softly and suddenly vanish away, and never be met with again.” The Baker confesses that the notion of this sudden vanishment brings him much distress.”

    I leave it to you to put in the various names.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 5:23pm

    John Tilley

    But on who does the work in the south I would suggest that some of it is done by Polish, Estonian, Romanian, Somali, Portuguese, Bangla Deshi and other recent arrivals. And thank goodness they have come because the NHS and a lot of other organisations would collapse without them.

    Sure, although I’m thinking of small town Sussex here, and neighbouring counties, rather than London. I appreciate that recently there has been much immigration of the sort you mention, but it was not that long ago that the number of people of non-British origin was small. My wife is of Asian origin, just a few years ago when we would visit my mother who lives in Burgess Hill, she would feel like a “sore thumb”, conscious that she was the only non-whiter person in site. Now that is not the case.

    The point I was trying to get at here, and I wasn’t really having a go at Bill le Breton, I appreciate “Tunbridge Wells” is often used as a sort of code word for “white affluent”, was that the stereotype of the south of England outside London being inhabited almost entirely by wealthy people living in big houses is WRONG. It has always been WRONG. It was WRONG before the immigration you mention took place. It would be WRONG if people assumed from what you wrote that everyone in the south who is not of Polish, Estonian, Romanian, Somali, Portuguese, Bangla Deshi or other recent immigrant origin is wealthy and living in a big house.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 5:29pm

    John Tilley

    And thank goodness they have come because the NHS and a lot of other organisations would collapse without them.

    If you think that is because there are no people living in the south who could do those jobs and who want those jobs, you are wrong. Might it not be the case that it’s superficially cheaper to bring in people from other countries who are already trained and able, and will work for cheaper pay, rather than to put some effort into training local people? Of course, superficially cheaper, because then it falls onto someone else’s budget as to what to do with those locals who are thereby denied jobs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov '13 - 9:20pm

    I’m not entirely going to let Bill off on this one, though. It may be “Tunbridge Wells” in quotes, but do you know what such stereotyping does? Are people going to go away thinking “Oh yes, we know Tunbridge Wells isn’t really like that?”. No. It’s a real name, and people are inevitably going to be led to think, even if subconsciously that people living in that real place are all fine and prosperous. So public money can be diverted elsewhere, after all, they’re all rich there, aren’t they? So any campaigning our party does in Tunbridge Wells and the like must be oriented to the political right. How many times do those wanting to push our party to the right use the lines that we need to do that to win votes in the south?

    Well, I don’t know Tunbridge Wells, but I know other places in the so-called true blue everyone-is-a-rich-Tory south, and I know where the parts are that don’t fit the stereotypes, the sink estates, the places they try to hide from you, the sort of place where I grew up. From media comment you really would think such places don’t exist, and it is the part of the way they are so discriminated against, people from them are so pushed down, that the south is written up as if they don’t exist. I don’t find it funny, Bill.

    So, I thought “OK, in Tunbridge Wells where do they keep us“. And by “us” I mean people like those I grew up with, us fairies who do the dirty work and aren’t supposed to exist. With a bit of research, I found one of such places is called the Sherwood Estate:

    http://www.kentnews.co.uk/news/tunbridge_wells_sherwood_estate_rebuild_to_begin_1_1504285

    As it says, in the 25% most deprived areas in England. So much for your “Tunbridge Wells”, Bill. There’s another side to it. Why don’t those people count? Why is no-one interested in their vote? Why are we constantly told we must move our party to the right to win votes in the south when they have places like that, where the people also have votes?

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Nov ’13 – 5:23pm
    the stereotype of the south of England outside London being inhabited almost entirely by wealthy people living in big houses is WRONG

    Yes I absolutely agree. My earlier nit-picking point was justthat it is a bit more complicated now.

    Up until say 1960 we could have talked about ‘the working class’ in the south and we would all have understood pretty much what we were saying. It was a stereotype even then but we knew what we meant. As a small boy my father did a caretaker/driver, my mother was a cleaner, we lived in a council house when we were in the north and when we moved south we lived in a council flat over the council offices where my dad was caretaker. Neither of my parents had any education beyond the age of 14. I think it is fairly obvious from this what class we were (are ).

    Over the last few decades we have been constrained from using class in political discussion. Liberals in particular have always been shy of discussing politics in terms of class. Perhaps because so many of them have been well-intentioned middle class people who do not wish to stigmatise or patronise. Whatever their reason I am sure it was done with the best of intentions. But the lack of a class perspective by some Liberals really limits understanding of the sort of issues which you have been highlighting.

    You are absolutely correct that we are not all rich and living in big houses in the south. A quick look at the demographics of a very wealthy borough like Kingston where I live indicates that there is one ward which has the social profile of an inner-city sink estate. As you have said this is replicated across the south even in Tunbridge Wells.

    I think that Bill and I are very much interested in the votes of the people you are talking about. Not just their votes, but in working with them to ‘take and use power’.
    All three of us are critical of the managerial, manipulative, Westminster Bubble excuse for politics that is becoming the hall-mark of Clegg and his coterie.

  • “And thank goodness they have come because the NHS and a lot of other organisations would collapse without them.”

    The UK as a migrant-accepting and attracting country is in the position of being able to systematically undertrain it’s own population (for example the number of places at medical schools does not correspond to the number of doctors needed) and to freeload off other nations’ education systems. So migration may have a positive effect on a country, but we must guard against it having a negative effect on politics because it if we don’t then we remove the need to prepare a place in society for the next generation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 10:09am

    John Tilley

    Over the last few decades we have been constrained from using class in political discussion. Liberals in particular have always been shy of discussing politics in terms of class.

    Yes, but one of the consequences of that is that the words “north” and “south” are often used as a substitute when what is really meant is “working class” and “middle class”. So many times have I heard something described as what happens in “the north” and I think “hey, but that’s what it was like on the council estate in Sussex where I grew up”. Actually my dad’s family came from the north (hence my northern surname) but my mum’s family were true Sussex (with a bit of gypsy thrown in) – and my dad’s family were Tories and my mum’s Labour.

    From my own background, yes it does make me really ANGRY when the word “south” is used to mean “middle class”, because it really does write off as non-existent people from my background, and it really does have a negative effect on policy and campaigning. The agreement between Labour and the Conservatives to write off the southern working class, to have a distortional representation system so that Labour got the north, the Tories got the south and no-one spoke for the likes of us, the likes of us were rendered invisible was one of the big things pushing me to join and become active in the Liberals.

    I think we southern working class types really ARE invisible to the Westminster bubble. The bubble is a mixture of posh southerners, for whom we are like the servants of old, i.e. invisible, and posh northerners, moved down south, who only mix with posh southerners and other posh northerns moved down south so suppose the whole of the south is like that. See even such things as how the northern accent is recognised as such, while the southern accent is dismissed as just bad speech, the sort of way stupid people speak, and the accent of the posh (“Received Pronunciation”), which is actually a southern Midlands accent, is wrongly called “southern”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 10:12am

    Richard S

    The UK as a migrant-accepting and attracting country is in the position of being able to systematically undertrain it’s own population (for example the number of places at medical schools does not correspond to the number of doctors needed) and to freeload off other nations’ education systems

    Exactly – and the left have been put off talking about this because they are scared of being accused of being “racist”, and to be true, many of them are posh types, and hate white working class people, so very easily accept the idea that white working class people are useless and so it’s best to replace them with imported coolies.

  • Steve Griffiths 20th Nov '13 - 10:55am

    Matthew Huntbach

    “and the accent of the posh (“Received Pronunciation”), which is actually a southern Midlands accent,”

    No it isn’t Matthew and I should know, I was born and raised there. RP is sometimes called ‘Oxford English’, but more should be more correctly called ‘Oxford University English’, because the largely public school intake of the university spoke like that. The ordinary people of the South Midlands sound very different, almost a ‘west country’ burr to people from other regions.

    Apart from that I agree wholeheartedly with your views that southern working class are invisible to the Westminster bubble. Your experiences are very similar to my own.

  • Alex Macfie 20th Nov '13 - 1:23pm

    If you want to hear an authentic Thames Valley accent, Ricky Gervais is your man! So I was amused at the recent news story of the school teacher in West Berkshire who was told by inspectors to speak more “southern”: do they want her to talk like David Brent?
    According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, Received Pronunciation is most similar to *East* MIdlands speech, but that’s as it was in the 15th century, and both have presumably evolved since then.
    So I agree with others on the conflation of RP with “southern” speech. I understand that until fairly recently, the local speech of most of the south-east outside London was rhotic, westcountry-ish.

  • Matthew Huntbach
    20th Nov 10:12am. Good point . What is being ignored is pay when when one is on average income. If one earn’s £25K/yr ,a reduction of 20% takes it down to £20k whereas an increase of 20% takes it up to £30K. There is a big difference in quality of life between £20k and £30K/yr. I would suggest that the lack of significant increase in salaries for below average salaries between 1995 and 2008 is because there has been a surfeit of applicants for un and semiskilled jobs because of immigration. Outsourcing of low and medium level manufacturing has also helped to reduce un and semiskilled salaries. The increase in the building industry and the shortage of bricklayers means that some are now earning £40K/yr however where there is competition for un and semiskilled jobs , wages will be much lower.

    I have not heard of single politician who has ever accurately predicted the impact of technological evolution , changes in trade and immigration on employment . Consequently vast swathes of un and semiskilled people have seen their incomes lag behind certain skilled people. Since 1945 Germany has continuously educated and trained it’s population to move into skilled jobs and most of it’s manufacturing is within the advanced high value sectors. The last great leap forward in the skills in Germany was in the 1990s.

    I would suggest that ensuring people have the education and technical skills to obtain highly sought after skilled employment would be one of the best ways to reduce inequality-http://www.utcolleges.org/. University technical colleges educate and train people so they can enter sought after highly skilled jobs. I would suggest that the fixation of sending 40% of pupils to universities no matter how irrelevant some arts degrees at some establishments are to employment, demonstrates demonstrates left wing middle class public sector arts graduates contempt for trade and technology.

    I would suggest that where money is spent in education and training are largely class issues. The poor treatment of injured Armed Forces personnel and the lack of equipment, I suggest is because the majority are working class and not the children of middle el class socialists . When the Senior RSM of the Armed Forces was forced to complain about the poor treatment of injured personnel to the Government it shows that the middle class socialists have no respect for the working class who fight for Britain . Johnson Beharry VC said ” All that was going through my head was to knock him out. I decided I’d get his attention and let him know how I felt”. J Beharry VC has said that Gordon Brown does’nt respect the Armed Forces enough.

    As a former Australian Labour Party member has said ” The Labour Party has gone from being the cream of the working class to the dregs of the middle class”.

    I would suggest that the German Social Democrats and unions have ensured that the German working class have the skills and education to obtain well paid employment and receive a fair share of the profits. German car workers can earn $41/hr. Germany and Switzerland have never tried to send 40% of its young people to university and made sure that technical and scientific degrees are dominant.

    I have yet to hear of middle class arts graduates socialists to support such organisation as the Fraunhofer Institutes of Germany and suggest this is class bias against applied science and technology.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fraunhofer_Society

  • Charlie: “I would suggest that the lack of significant increase in salaries for below average salaries between 1995 and 2008 is because there has been a surfeit of applicants for un and semiskilled jobs because of immigration.”

    And you’d be wrong. If you read the peer-reviewed research on this area you would find that wage depression due to immigration is actually very small, measured in pennies rather than pounds.

  • jedibeeftrix 20th Nov '13 - 4:32pm

    Gareth “, I share the view that those who can afford to bear the burden in a time of austerity should do so”

    unfortunately, they don’t have confidence in your interest in repealing these ‘extraordinary’ measures once this time of shared pain passes…

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Nov '13 - 11:05pm

    Alex Macfie, well it’s going way off topic, but I’m glad you get my point. Received Pronunciation originates as a south-east Midlands accent, that’s not to say it’s how ordinary people in the south-east Midlands speak, but in linguistic terms it relates more to the accents of those parts than to the accents south of London. It’s more a conflation of the Oxford-Cambridge-London triangle than “Oxford English” – I have this fantasy that in the middle of the triangle there’s a village where everyone of all classes speaks perfect RP, but, yes, of course it’s evolved as a distinct class accents. Southern forms used to stretch from the West country into Sussex, but these days you’re unlikely ever to hear a full Sussex accent, what’s called “Estuary English” now dominates. Even so, I’d say a strong “Estuary” accent is as distinct from RP as a standard northern accent, so that reinforces my point that to call RP “southern” is wrong. True Cockney to me always has a distinct East Anglian tone, while what they call a “south London accent” has more in the way of southern traces.

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 ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

    No recent comment found.