Opinion: The silence of the Miliband

Yesterday I got an email from Ed Miliband, which included part of his online Q &A session:

I am stuck as to whether to vote Labour or Lib Dem. I am not interested in past records either, I am looking to the future. Many people fall in an “in-between zone”, not poor enough to receive help with living costs, but not rich enough to be able to stay on top of general living costs. How would Labour deal with this? — Zoe, Norfolk

Ed: Hi Zoe, you’re absolutely right that the problem in our economy right now is that recovery just isn’t reaching working people — just a few at the top. Many working people aren’t getting paid enough to be able to stay on top of the bills. Tackling this cost of living crisis will be the key mission of the next Labour government. Unlike the Tories, Labour understand that Britain only succeeds when working families succeed, and that’s why only a Labour government can tackle the cost of living crisis. One of the ways we will do this is by freezing your energy bills until 2017 and giving the regulator the power to cut bills this winter so that people can afford to heat their homes. To make sure work pays, we will ban exploitative zero-hours contracts, raise the minimum wage to £8, and provide 25 hours free childcare per week for working parents with three or four year olds. We’ll also introduce a new, lower 10p starting rate of tax, paid for by scrapping the unfair marriage tax allowance, which will benefit 24 million people on middle and lower incomes…”

Well the minimum wage should go up to £8.25 in the long run anyway, and the 10p tax rate is completely wrong, we should be looking at national insurance now instead.

Policies aside, there is absolutely nothing in there which says why Labour are a better option than the Liberal Democrats.  We’re completely ignored.  The Lib Dems want to put the necessary £8 billion into the NHS.  Labour silence.  The Lib Dems want to prioritise mental health.  Labour silence.

And then the killer moment in the debate this evening, with Nick Clegg challenging Ed Miliband to apologise for the economic mess that Labour left the country in.

What did we get?  Applause for Nick and…

Labour silence.

Then, to top it all, I get another email from the Ed Miliband straight after the debates:

“Simon —If you were watching the debate tonight, I hope I did you and our party proud…”

No you didn’t Ed.   One, because I’m not in your party.  Two, because the country was in such a mess we had to go into coalition with the Tories (THE TORIES!!!) to sort it out.  Three, because you failed to apologise for the Laurel and Hardy “That’s another fine mess that Labour got us into.”

I tweeted and emailed back to Ed Miliband, as he was kind enough to write to me.  The result?


* Simon Foster is a lecturer in Politics and Economics, and has published twenty-five books on Politics, PSHE and Citizenship.

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  • You know – I voted for Nick Clegg before the coalition. I only vote in general elections.

    Miliband would be a disaster for Britain. We need a strong leader withe the world as it is . Sorry ED but that isn’t you – Merkel would eat you up and bounce you on her knee.

    Sturgeon was the best politician on the stand – straight talking and actually tried to answer questions head on. Problem here is it’s a Scottish party. Time to evolve SNP and rejoin the union same as Scotland decided to. Oh and BTW I’m a Scot living in England who is bitter about being dumped by the SNP in the yes/no vote.

    Mr.Cameron – you gave me the impression Nick was running things a bit – or a least influencing policy enough to take the edge off the Tory bite.

    The Greens – *chortle* –

    So well done Nick Clegg – you came a good 2nd in my book after Nicola – time for the lib dems to talk to the SNP – I think the lib dems are the party that is required to step up and facilitate change in England. Even ousting Labour would be a job well done.

    Seems like you got my vote.

  • The seven million viewers that watched the itv Leaders Debate.

    The rest of the electorate will possibly be influenced by the media reports.

    The media reports will have more to do with the views of whichever rich oligarch is the owner. I have not read the views of Murdoch this morning but I have no doubt that The Sun, Times, Sky etc etc will not be boosting Ed Miliband. People talk about politicians being out of touch but it is really the media moguls who live on another planet.

    The women leaders, especially Woods and Sturgeon, did brilliantly well in last night’s debate. The Sun will not mention this because they were both dressed normally from the waist up. What a sad reflection on democracy.

  • What a ludicrous article.

    Why are Labour emailing you in the first place? Have you ever given them your email address? Are there not details on each email as to how to stop receiving them?

    “The Lib Dems want to put the necessary £8 billion into the NHS. Labour silence.”

    Perhaps you nipped out of the room during the part where Miliband gave a long list of extra spending commitments for the NHS, including where the money would come from. You can catch up on the bits you missed here :-


  • Simon Foster 3rd Apr '15 - 10:52am

    Some people might agree with you Stuart after falling for the Labour propaganda. However as usual, the devil is in the detail.

    There’s a fundamental difference between the Lib Dems and Labour. It’s that we’re willing to face up to our mistakes. Nick Clegg took responsibility for tuition fees, and asked Ed Miliband to take responsibility for his part in crashing the economy, which happened on Miliband’s watch when he was sat round the Cabinet table.

    Clearly you need to be paying more attention. I will draw your attention to the section of the debate including where Nick Clegg confirmed that the Liberal Democrats would put an extra £8 billion into the NHS, and challenged the other party leaders to do so.

    What was the response from Ed Milliband?


    However, don’t just take my word for it. 38 degrees are hardly friends of the Liberal Democrats, but here’s their graph on NHS Spending:


    Looking forward to hearing one of two things:

    1) A clear Labour commitment to spend an extra £8 billion on the NHS per year by the end of the next Parliament.

    2) SILENCE.

    I suspect I know which is more likely.


    Simon Foster.

  • Hannah Bettsworth 3rd Apr '15 - 10:57am

    Some people join other parties’ mailing lists to keep abreast of the rubbish they’re putting out. Personally I don’t because I couldn’t stand to be exposed to Miliband’s sanctimony any more so than I already am.

    He can spend *more* on the NHS, but he isn’t spending *enough*. That’s the £8bn we’re putting in. And he’s also chosen the man who was Health Sec at the time of Mid Staffs to manage the health service again.

    Somehow, I think their health credentials are rather weaker than they would like us to think.

  • @Hannah Bettsworth-

    Burnham wasn’t Health Sec when Mid Staffs happened. He did however set up the enquiry when he got into the post.

  • Louise Bloom 3rd Apr '15 - 11:17am

    Miliband is silent on a lot of things and on others talks total rubbish. I have had a tax cut thanks to the Lib Dems in government but I’m most definitely not a millionaire. I’m not even a higher rate tax payer. So perhaps in Ed’s case silence is golden!

  • @Louise Bloom –

    I had a tax rise when they voted with the Conservatives to raise VAT to 20%.

  • Sarah Brown 3rd Apr '15 - 11:21am

    @ Stuart
    I still get emails from Labour after I left them. I have tried to get rid but Ed just won’t let it go. I told him “Ed, mate I don’t know how to tell you this, but I am seeing someone else, his name is Nick and he just gets me y’know. I’m sorry but I couldn’t resist the hot sexy liberal alternative. Sorry mate but your policies suck” but he still keeps on emailing me! Mon Dieu!

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Apr '15 - 11:49am

    My memory is not very good, Simon. Could you remind me where and when we opposed Labour’s economic policy in the 2005/2010 Parliament?

    So, following a credit crunch, nominal gross domestic product plummeted and with it tax revenues (across the globe). Did we oppose the decision to allow the deficit to rise rather than cut expenditure as we entered what has become known across the world as the Great Recession?

    I think Labour allowed the bank of England to get monetary policy wrong throughout that Parliament, especially when it tightened in the face of oil price rises in 2007/2008, but did we protest either against Treasury policy or Bank of England’s management?

    Oh, it’s good “politics” to pin the blame on Labour, but unfortunately that then commits people to the wrong economic policy after the election.

  • @Simon Foster
    “Nick Clegg took responsibility for tuition fees”

    Are you being serious? This is your idea of Clegg “taking responsibility” :-

    “Let me take the issue of tuition fees head on. I of course famously – infamously – couldn’t [sic] put in to practise my party’s policy on tuition fees, for reasons which I hope you are familiar with. They were introduced by Labour and actually jacked up by Labour, and there was no money left.”

    Sounds more to me like he’s trying to blame others rather than “taking responsibility”.

    Can I just remind you of the timeline of key events :-

    14th April 2010 – Lib Dem manifesto published. Promises to abolish tuition fees completely. Says this policy is fully costed and achievable “even in these difficult economic times”.

    21st May 2010 – ONS reports that the annual budget deficit is £7bn lower than previously reported. This is almost £11bn lower than Alistair Darling’s final budget forecast.

    9th December 2010 – Nick Clegg and other Lib Dems vote to treble fees.

  • @Stuart
    “You know – I voted for Nick Clegg before the coalition. I only vote in general elections…”

    I would hope it’s obvious, but he’s a different Stuart.

  • “We see why we need to break up the old boys’ network at Westminster.”

    I agree with Nicola.

  • Simon Foster 3rd Apr '15 - 1:09pm

    @Stuart – partially quoting people is a good trick, shame you didn’t finish the dialogue. Fortunately, Lib Dem voice readers can read between the lines and can spot what you’re up to 🙂

    Nick has said sorry, Ed hasn’t. That’s taking responsibility from Nick, but not from Ed. Those are the facts.

    Your spin (of which I saw better on my comprehensive school’s cricket pitch 😉 ) merely confirms what we are going to get from Ed Milliband when it comes to saying sorry:


    I also notice your silence when it comes to NHS spending, and how the Liberal Democrats are going to plug the £8 billion hole experts argue the NHS needs, whereas Labour are only going to plug about £.2.5 billion of this funding gap.

    @Bill – I’m sure your memory is fine, really. I agree with part of your position, that the economic crisis was global and caused by a complex set of factors coming together. The part I take issue with is that Labour did a good job of managing it – I don’t believe they did, and I believe Miliband and Balls should accept and apologise for that (Balls to be fair has admitted some of the spending decisions were wrong).

    @Sarah – I fully understand your hot sexy liberalism rather than the coldblandsocialism of the past 😉


    PS: @Stuart – I am well aware that Stuart is not Stuart! I say that as a descendant of Stewarts 😉

  • @Sarah Brown
    I can sympathise. I once emailed the Yes to AV campaign to tell them that one of the claims on their website was bogus. To this day I still receive emails from Katie Ghose addressing me as a supporter of the ERS. If I can ever be bothered, I’ll see if their unsubscribe function works – but like most people I tend to just hit delete.

    I’m a bit narked I’ve never had an email from Ed, despite being an affiliate member (recently lapsed) for around 14 years.

  • Louise Bloom@

    I’m so pleased you are happy with the tax threshold increase you’ve had.

    A couple of points though.

    My household is awash with cash as a result of Tory/Lib Dem policies. Not.

    My state pension date has been put back a year, giving me very little notice to have to secure income to bridge the gap. Because of my SERPS additional pension and state pension delay, even at current rates I’ll be losing out nearly £7,000 because of that.

    Also, at present I am not a tax payer, my income is too small. But I have to pay increased VAT on nearly every purchase or service. That was increased [despite Lib Dems campaigning against it] by Osborne & Alexander.

    But maybe I’m just not as easily fooled as some.

  • Stuart – that speaks volumes about how Ed views the “useful idiots” that support him.

  • In his excellent blog, Jonathan Fryer makes this very good point —
    “…Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru was the one politician who was new to me and although she was the weakest of the pack she did get in the one killer remark of the evening, when she rounded on Nigel Farage, who had just said non-UK nationals should not quaklify for free anti-HIV treatment, by sternly telling him he should be ashamed of himself, to warm applause from the audience.”

  • I find it astonishing that people who might otherwise think they were intelligent, are so offended by a political party that they produce a post to complain about it yet they cannot find the unsubscribe option in an email.

    And as for permitting 2 different account holders to use the same moniker – that is really poor form for any forum & I would have expected LDV to have an in-built method of preventing this kind of abuse from happening.

  • David Allen 3rd Apr '15 - 4:09pm

    “Nick has said sorry, Ed hasn’t.”

    Nick’s apology was an apology of an apology. It was wrung out of him, ages after the apology should have been given, and accompanied by a long convoluted argument as to why the thing he was apologising for was in fact the right thing to do.

    Ed has avoided the bear trap proposed by his opponents, who have tried to make Labour the scapegoat for a worldwide financial crash caused by greedy bankers. Ed has nevertheless admitted to some past Labour financial mistakes, while rightly pointing out that the Tories supported all the mistaken policies at the time, and indeed were pressing for even laxer controls on greedy bankers.

    Ed Miliband has many faults but he does seem to have some ability to self-criticise honestly, and to learn from his mistakes. Nick does not.

  • @MartinB
    Well, quite. And then there’s this from Simon Foster:-

    “What did we get? Applause for Nick and… Labour silence.”

    From which I can only assume Simon accidentally sat on his remote and hit the mute button, thereby failing to hear Ed’s immediate response, which can be found at 1:40:00 here :-

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Apr '15 - 5:17pm

    Simon, thank you for your good natured reply.

    As a country, I think we were very lucky that the Tories were not running the country in 2008.

    Here’s what Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman wrote at the time, “Mr Brown and Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer have defined the character of the worldwide rescue effort, with other wealthy nations playing catch-up … Luckily for the world economy,… Gordon Brown and his officials are making sense,… And they may have shown us the way through this crisis.”

    I am sure Vince Cable would have made similar decisions to those of Brown and Darling, but Cameron and Osborne (and perhaps David Laws) may have hesitated. It would be good to know if David made any public statements at the time. If he applauded the Government’s emergency decisions I immediately apologise for thinking he may not have.

    Why is this at all important? Because the world is facing a huge challenge of stagnation at the moment that will not by some miracle by-pass the UK.

    The Centre for Macroeconomics’ monthly survey ( http://cfmsurvey.org/surveys/importance-elections-uk-economic-activity ) asked: Do you agree that the austerity policies of the coalition government have had a positive effect on aggregate economic activity (employment and GDP) in the UK?

    Two out of three economists survey disagreed or strongly disagreed with that statement. Only 16% agreed and no one agreed strongly. The economists are worried, very worried.

    And they have good reason,with the policy rate still at 0.5% and the country about to embark on an even deeper round of cuts and tax hikes – with ourselves and the Tories seeking to front load these in the earlier part of the next Parliament.

    I am a great advocate of monetary policy being able to offset some of this ‘austerity’ as it did in the US at the time of the sequester. But the chances are that the extent of the cuts and tax rises that will follow the election could overwhelm our frail recovery when the global background is also taken into consideration.

    Asking the Milliband to apologise, when, under our watch, the recovery was delayed by our own policies for half that Parliament by an attempt to remove the deficit in five years, may seem very foolish if we have any say over the policy decisions of the next few years.

  • Simon Shaw what about this ? or is it okay to suggest that other party’s would raise VAT whilst all the while intending to raise it yourself? That’s the kind of thong which brings politics into disrepute,


  • Comparisons with France (and indeed Greece!) are fallacious because of the very important fact that they are in the EuroZone and the UK is not.

  • Simon Shaw 3rd Apr ’15 – 5:38pm

    Simon, I know a few people who have to live in France at some point during the last 20 years.
    Not one of them has changed their mind and come back to live in the UK.

    I believe that even since 2012 many more Brits holiday in France than the other way round.

    The quality of life is better, the food is better, they use the Euro and they do not throw away money on a bloated monarchy. What’s not to like?

    Perhaps, just perhaps, France is not exactly the socialist hell you are trying to paint?

  • @Simon Shaw
    “In 2010, the Lib Dems didn’t campaign against an increase in VAT

    Your memory is playing tricks on you. See :-


    From which, Nick Clegg: “Liberal Democrats have costed, in full, our proposals for tax cuts. We can tell you, penny for penny, pound for pound, who pays for them. We will not have to raise VAT to deliver our promises. The Conservatives will. Let me repeat that: Our plans do not require a rise in VAT. The Tory plans do.”

  • Bill le Breton 3rd Apr '15 - 7:28pm

    I do Simon. We had the right fiscal policy in the 2010 campaign. (provided we had effective monetary policy – which wasn’t as active and open ended as it needed to be – the MPC got very close to raising rates in 2011). The folly of all this was confirmed when two years into accelerate fiscal contraction (in the 2012 budget) we had to slip the horizon for removing the structural budget to five years and slip it again. Laws was far too cautious about inflation. What inflation you may ask?

    France is totally different because it isn’t in control of its own monetary policy. The UK did £375 billion of QE. The European Central Bank is only now committing itself to QE.

    It is the reason why I always opposed entering the Euro and have wished we had been firmer in using HMT (and Parliament’s) prerogative to set/change the Bank’s (inflation) target. Which I still believe the next Government will have to do in the face of the coming Great Stagnation.

  • Simon Foster 3rd Apr '15 - 10:47pm

    @MartinB – You need to reread the article more carefully, because what offends me is the SILENCE from Ed Milliband.

    @DavidAllen – Please can you point out to this apology, as I may have missed it, in fairness to Ed. So it seems, did most of the studio audience who were applauding Nick at the time for asking the question. So either he hasn’t made a clear apology, or he hasn’t got it out clearly to the British people (assuming the studio audience were a representative sample, but I’m going to trust ITV on this occasion and give them the benefit of the doubt 😉 ).

    The other thing that offends me is the assumption that if you reply to a Labour email or survey you automatically support the Labour Party. I never have replied in this way to them (although I will admit to being curious over the NHS Baby Number survey)

    So it is with great amusement today that I receive today’s email asking me to tell people “Why I am voting Labour?”

    I’m still not of course. This is typical of the collectivism that surrounds some thinking in the Labour Party. The mere thought that somebody could be an individual enough to reply to a Labour Party survey but not actually support them seems to have passed the Labour Party by.

    Thank goodness we have individualism instead (including ethical and developmental individualism, of which I am a great fan). And thank goodness we have a party with politicians in it willing to promote ethical and developmental individualism – namely the Liberal Democrats.

  • Richard Harris 4th Apr '15 - 7:25am

    @Simon Foster
    You are on the wrong mailing list. use a filter and move on.
    I am happy to offer you a free tutorial on filtering emails. It would take about ten minutes, which I am sure is considerably less time than it took you to write the article in the first place.

  • Simon Shaw

    I assume you go on holiday to France because you like it there. 🙂

    So as I said —
    “Perhaps, just perhaps, France is not exactly the socialist hell you are trying to paint?”

    I hold no brief for the French Socialists but I do not think their record in recent years is in any way an accurate parallel or guide for what might happen in the UK where we do not have a Socialist Party.

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ramesh-patel/growth-cameron-austerity_b_2007552.html

    People in this thread and elsewhere should read this Huff Post piece before demanding another “Deficit apology ” from Miliband.

    It may spoil things for those who do not remember the facts of 2008 and which politicians said what in the run up to the economic collapse. NC himself never seems too good on economics, not his strongest subject.

  • Simon Foster 4th Apr '15 - 9:20am

    @Richard And who’s fault is that then?

    Same old Labour Party. Make a mistake, refuse to take responsibility for it, refuse to apologise, and expect somebody else to sort out the mess.

  • Simon McGrath 4th Apr '15 - 9:35am

    @John – the article is very odd- its author who says he is an economist and Tory seems to have no existence apart from this piece, nor so any of the firms he claims to have worked for exist

  • Simon Foster, I am still getting emails from the Lib Dems long after I stopped supporting them.

    I have no idea what you mean by “ethical and developmental individualism” but I think your getting het up for no reason. I’m sure you can get in touch with the Labour Party and ask them to take you off their mailing list. Try the Unsubscribe function.

  • Simon Foster “..expect someone else to sort out the mess”

    That’s a bit unfair. Alastair Darling had a clear plan for coming out of the recession and if Labour had been voted back in, we would have been out of the recession much sooner than under Osborne. It was ‘a work in progress’ when the Election happened. Your comment is just parroting Cameron’s frequent claim that the Torys had to sort out Labour’s mess. It’s not true .

  • The thrust of this piece may as well be “Ed Miliband is a bit rubbish”. Well on the cost of living at least as far as it relates to fuel bills, Miliband was a minister and didnt achieve much, and his policy of freezing high bills raises more questions than it provides answers. However I cant see how Clegg apologising and Miliband not apologising makes Clegg vastly superior. Ultimately politicians should put forward a positive vision of what they want to achieve and in the case of Clegg Cameron and Miliband, they have all had some power to exercise so in addition to the vision we have a record to judge them on. That Miliband appears to be out of his depth the moment his toe touches the water is what it is. He can still be PM. And if a new Lib Dem leader has to negotiate with a weak Labour leader within a coalition, we may get more of the policies our support base wants than Clegg was able to with Cameron.

  • Simon McGrath
    My point was that to call on Ed Miliband to apologise for the world-wide economy of 2008, when he did not even become the MP for Doncaster until 3 years earlier is just plain daft.

    You may think that Doncaster is the financial centre of the Universe.
    If you do you would be just as wrong as anyone who foolishly believes that the MP for Doncaster should apologise for the problems of the world economy.

  • Bill le Breton 4th Apr '15 - 11:21am

    Trashing Labour on the economy in and after 2010 required the Coalition to attempt to removed the structural deficit in five years. A lesser (and wiser) pace of fiscal consolidation (when interest rates were at the zero lower bound) would have undermined this classic political gambit.

    As I have said above, this policy had to be reversed two years later, which effectively took it back into line with the Labour (and our own 2010 manifesto) position. And the cost of those two years of lost growth?

    Probably at least £100,000,000,000.

    Output is still 15% below what it would have been had the long term growth rate (which the economy returned to in the summer of 2010) had continued.

    History will judge our role in that utter waste of human potential. The cost of old politics.

  • @Simon Shaw
    “Except that VAT Bombshell advert was about the claim that the Tories’ tax promises didn’t add up.”

    Are you suggesting then that the huge bomb depicted was some kind of benign bomb, such that the poster wasn’t actually suggesting that raising VAT might be a bad thing? That seems barely credible!

  • nvelope2003 4th Apr '15 - 1:12pm

    I expect that the fact that there was a general election in 2010 was the reason for the Labour Party Government’s policy on the economy.

  • JohnTilley, Miliband and Balls were involved in the formulation of Labour’s economic policy for many years even before they were. Neither is it ok to say that as there were problems outside of the UK that this excused their actions. There was outwardly a specific policy of prudence, ending boom and bust etc. Meanwhile in reality the opposite happened. Miliband wasnt simply a Doncaster MP.

  • Alistair,
    Whatever role Mliband and Balls may have had — there is no way that I was involved in the formulation of Labour’s economic policy. 🙂

    I am guessing that is not what you meant when you started your comment – ”
    “Alistair 5th Apr ’15 – 8:13am
    JohnTilley, Miliband and Balls were involved in the formulation of Labour’s economic policy for many years even before they were. ”

    In my past I have been guilty of many things but never “the formulation of Labour’s economic policy”.

  • Peter Andrews 5th Apr '15 - 10:01am

    @Stuart, is it that hard to grasp that the Lib Dems did not win the last election so we were not able to implement all of our tax policies and indeed in a Coalition Government had to implement some of the tax policies of the Tories. which we quite correctly warned during the 2010 election included raising VAT to 20%.

    So we did oppose a rise in VAT to 20% before the election but once in coalition were unable to persuade our much larger coalition partners that this was the wrong policy and instead more taxes should be raised from richer people such as by raising capital gains tax to the same levels as income tax which was our policy before the 2010 election but we only managed to persuade the Tories to increase this tax to 28% IIRC

  • @Peter Andrews
    “So we did oppose a rise in VAT to 20% before the election but once in coalition were unable to persuade our much larger coalition partners that this was the wrong policy”

    Peter, I completely accept that. My point was merely that Simon Shaw was incorrect in claiming that the Lib Dems did not campaign against the Tory VAT plans – and you seem to agree with me on that.

  • Simon Foster 6th Apr '15 - 5:17pm

    @Stuart – Thanks for the video. As you will see, Ed is silent when it comes to apologising, and instead dodges the question. Thank you for making the point so ably for me.

    @bill – Sorry I didn’t get back to you initially (the dangers of the page jumping up and down on the internet!) You raise some interesting points. I thought I’d chuck this one in, as I’ve just seen this on twitter, which relates to Vince’s position in 2006:


    @phyliss – As I’ve said before, the reason why I’ve commented on these emails is the Labour Party’s assumption that because I am automatically a supporter when I once replied to them. This is about as likely as John Tilley being responsible for “Labour’s economic policy.” I can confirm that although I sometimes disagree with John about some things, he is 100% correct when he says he is not involved with Labour in this way (or any other way, I suspect! )

    Ethical individualism is something I teach in A level politics. The idea is that you aim to achieve what is best for each individual within the whole of society. It is different from the collectivism that forms part of the tradition of socialism and later social democracy (which in an extreme example can lead to a motorway being built straight through the middle of your house whether you like it or not – or even HS2, to give a good current example).

    It is also different from the egotistical individualism of classical liberalism which says society should be run for my own selfish interests and nobody else’s. This has a lot in common with the atomistic individualism of neo-liberalism which says “There is no such thing as society, there is instead family” (Thatcher) and is usually found in the Conservative Party.

    Developmental individualism believes in the self actualisation of individuals by promoting their positive freedoms (positive freedom as defined by Isiah Berlin). This includes freedoms where a third party is requiring to achieve them. It includes freedom from illiteracy (education), freedom from ill health (a health service), and freedom of information (access to the internet) for example. The best example in the UK of promoting such a view can be found within the Liberal Democrats, and within them the Social Liberal Democrats, a centre-left pressure group within the party, of which I am a member.

    Note that positive freedoms do not have to be provided by the state. Thus there is a role here for social enterprise, charities and the private sector – a liberal is not bound by their ideology here.

    My lucky A2 students who study Political Ideology with the Edexcel exam board get to write short 15 mark questions for 15 minutes on the subject (eg: What are the different types of individualism?)

    Of interest here is the overlap between social or modern liberalism and social democracy. Both often come to the same policy conclusions but start from different ends of the political spectrum – social democracy from collectivism on the left, and social/modern liberalism from individualism on the right, and end up on the centre left of politics.

    Best wishes,


  • Alex Sabine 6th Apr '15 - 6:34pm

    @ Peter Andrews
    “So we did oppose a rise in VAT to 20% before the election but once in coalition were unable to persuade our much larger coalition partners that this was the wrong policy and instead more taxes should be raised from richer people such as by raising capital gains tax to the same levels as income tax which was our policy before the 2010 election but we only managed to persuade the Tories to increase this tax to 28% IIRC.”

    There is a huge difference in the revenue yield from raising capital gains tax rates and VAT. According to the Treasury’s ‘ready reckoner’, which is a bit stylised but gives an idea of the orders of magnitude, each one percentage point rise in the higher rate of CGT (currently 28%) raises a paltry £30 million. By contrast a 1ppt rise in VAT raises £5.2 billion in 2015-16 prices.

    Indeed, I seem to recall that when the coalition raised CGT in 2010, Treasury ministers (including Danny Alexander) said they had been advised by officials that 28% was likely to be the revenue-maximising rate.

    As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to determine the revenue-maximising rate of CGT – even more difficult than with other taxes because you have to consider not only the direct yield but also the (large) effect on other revenue streams, particularly income tax (one of the main purposes of CGT being to prevent ‘leakage’ of income tax revenue through avoidance behaviour). Moreover, the level of capital gains realised depends heavily on the performance of the stock market and asset prices, and it can be hard to strip this out and isolate the effect of rate changes.

    On the face of it, though, the 2010 increase has not resulted in a noticeably increased yield of either CGT (whose yield was £7.8 billion in 2008-09, when the rate was 18%, £3.9 billion in 2013-14 and is forecast to come in at £5.7 billion for 2014-15) or income tax. There are certainly grounds to doubt you could push revenue much higher by increasing the higher CGT rate to 40% or 45%.

    By contrast, the increase in VAT from 17.5% to 20% was a big ‘earner’ for the Treasury, bringing £11 billion per year into the coffers. That is roughly equivalent to the cost to the Exchequer of the personal allowance increase from £6,475 to £10,600. Depending on how it is constructed, a ‘mansion tax’ or high-value property tax is expected to raise £1 billion to £2 billion.

    So it is unlikely that the VAT rise could have been avoided unless the coalition had abandoned its other tax cuts, of which the higher PA was easily the most costly in revenue terms – unless, that is, it had been prepared to borrow even more or cut spending more deeply. The idea that the VAT rise could have been traded for higher CGT and a mansion tax is wishful thinking. Ultimately, if you want to raise a lot of revenue you need to raise broad-based taxes that affect a large number of people (ie income tax, NI or VAT).

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