Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The LibDems as the 'Tory Dream'?

Are Nick Clegg and his party jumping on the "Big Society" band wagon? Contribution by Jane Watkinson.

Melanie Phillips usually writes utter rubbish, but her article yesterday is one of her worst. Apparently, the Tories have made more concessions than the LibDems. Hmm. I don’t think so.

Apparent ‘gains’ for the LibDems include the AV referendum, fixed term parliaments, and their ‘progressive’ income tax cuts!

When you consider that AV is arguably less proportional than FPTP, there is an undemocratic 55% proposal attached to the fixed term parliaments (fixed term parliaments themselves are a good idea, but only if perused in the right manner), and that their income tax cut is now described as a 'Tory dream', then one can hardly see them as gains.

I find the ‘Tory dream’ analysis particularly interesting. This LibDem tax policy had been attractive before the election, however, it was far from redistributive in the true sense of the word, with those on higher incomes benefiting more. However, it will now be funded primarily through public spending cuts as the policies LibDems intended to fund it with(e.g mansion tax) have been dropped.

I think Melanie will have more to smile about then the LibDems given a few months in power. She should remember that a Tory minority government would have found it harder to of got unpopular policies through, and the LibDems could have voted against, not merely abstained, when it came to policies such as the marriage tax.

With the news that the LibDems and Clegg are jumping on the ‘Big Society’ band wagon, it really reinforces how much the Tories have gained from this partnership. It is rather suprising given the attitudes of some LibDems to the idea before the election:
The ‘Big Society Day’ is just patronising nonsense, particularly for the thousands of dedicated people who are working to make their communities better every day. David Cameron will say anything to get a headline. Instead of gimmicks, the Liberal Democrats will give people real power over things that matter like their local police and health services.” – Julia Goldsworthy
Like I have said countless times before, the ‘Big Society’ sounds great. It really does. Will it work? I doubt it. Well it depends what you mean by work (tax cuts, yes). But, to me – it looks as though the LibDems are trying to change their spots too quickly. Or were they ever that against the ‘Big Society’ in the first place? We have to remember that at the heart of the Tories’ ‘Big Society’ is cuts and a promotion of unreliable charity and voluntary organisations. I have written quite a lot about the ‘Big Society’ in the past, so I wont go into too much detail here (see here for example, a much better analysis can be found at Left Foot Forward – where I got that picture from).

It seems that Cameron has got Clegg wrapped around his little finger – treating him to a shared 115 room estate with William Hauge at Chevening for example, so much for new politics hey? I am all for more local power, but I am very doubtful the ‘Big Society’ will provide real power to the local community. They could have of least changed the name so that it looked more like a compromise instead of another central Tory policy getting the nod.

Honestly, is it fair to say that any of the LibDem’s four central policy commitments have really entered into this coalition deal unscathed?

Tax reform has been watered down to the point of being regressive, there is an AV – not PR – referendum, the other political reforms that were set out to be achieved are largely sidelined to nothing more than committees or aspirations, the pupil premium was already in the Tory manifesto, they will have to abstain if there is a proposal for tuition fees to be uncapped (even though some LibDem MPs are confused and think they can go against this – that will be interesting) and they are not helping the enviroment – they have just welcomed the creation of even more nuclear power. Happy days.

Jane Watkinson blogs at My Political Ramblings.


Stan Moss said...

But, to me – it looks as though the LibDems are trying to change their spots too quickly. Or were they ever that against the ‘Big Society’ in the first place?

Exactly my view.
I don't wanna rub it in and say that too many people were blind to the bleeding obvious, as I'm not at all surprised the LibDems turned out to be what they were all along.
But, yeah, the change of heart on too many things has just been so quick it's impossible not to question what the LDs stood for in the first place.

DomFisher said...

Hate to admit it but you're right. A straightforward tax cut which goes some way to reducing the poverty trap and start to remove the anomaly of people who pay tax on their income but are wholly dependent on the state is something I would like to have seen in the Tory manifesto to begin with. We'd have won an overall majority without doubt if we had run with it first. The graphs on the other blog are misleading because it doesn't describe the percentage impact of the tax cut on incomes and also ignores the dynamic impact of allowing lower earners to keep more of what they earn from working more.

The Tories are over 80% of this coalition. It's hardly surprising that the policies of the Lib Dems that are unpalatable to grass-root Tories (such as mansion tax) failed to survive the chop.

Anita said...

It's a pity that this blog has turned into a game of chucking bucketloads of shit at the LibDems.

Just give them a chance! How long have they been in government? Days? A week?
Too much cynicism takes you nowhere.

claude said...

What's all this "give'em a chance" business? Knock it off, will you, it's like a broken record.

Is anyone stopping them from governing?

Shall we abolish freedom to criticise and oppose? Are we not allowed to say that some of the government's announcements are dubious or objectionable?

What exactly does "give'em a chance mean"?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I am slightly with Anita, the Lib Dems have replaced the Tories and BNP in your ire-sights and with good reason but let us see how it all turns out before we damn them to high heaven.

claude said...

"the Lib Dems have replaced the Tories and BNP in your ire-sights and with good reason but let us see how it all turns out before we damn them to high heaven."

Oh you're not kidding. I don't deny that. I got really pissed off with the LibDems. But really really pissed off. I feel betrayed and I still struggle to grasp how a party can campaign saying certain things "absolutely" over a whole year and then hours after the election take huge chunks of it back. I generally don't like being taken for a ride. And I've also seen how "dissident" members have been treated since the Coalition was launched, which is straight from the worst school of Stalinist sectarianism.

I am going to keep this blog away from politics for the time being (guest posts aside, like this one) as I've had enough of it, personally, and it's getting on my tits.

However, Daniel. This bit here:

" let us see how it all turns out before we damn them to high heaven".

Would you apply it to other areas of political life? Would you have said it about Iraq? About, say, privatising the railway? Introducing IDs? The Poll Tax? Let's see how it turns out first?

I thought that the whole nature of politics was centred around debating things. Some will support something and others will oppose it. I don't recall people saying "give Gordon Brown a chance (exclamation mark)" back in June 2007. Why the kid gloves with the Lib Dems?