17th SEPTEMBER 2010
As Liberal Democrats gather for their first conference since entering coalition, The Liberal magazine urged the party to hold an urgent debate on the size and speed of the cuts to be outlined in next month’s Comprehensive Spending Review. The magazine’s editor, Benjamin Ramm, noted: “The exhaustive Conference Agenda runs to 25,000 words, detailing the minutiae of policy discussion, but it does not mention ‘cuts’ on a single occasion. The Liberal Democrats are a party in denial”.
Examining the agenda, Ramm commended the education motion as “far-sighted and in keeping with liberal principles” but said that ‘Ensuring Fairness in a Time of Austerity’, which tasks itself with focusing the party on equitable outcomes, was “tepid”, as it accepted the premise that cuts need to be deep and swift.
The magazine offered comment on two key issues being debated – formally and on the fringe – in the coming days:
- The decoupling of Capital Gains Tax from the top rate of income tax, a move once described by Vince Cable as “an open invitation to tax avoidance”, is part of a double standard on taxation, in which the state tolerates evasion and avoidance by the wealthy – to the tune of £70bn (more than the total proposed cuts to public services) – while pursuing false claims by those on lower incomes. Ramm remarked: “The government proposes to bear down on benefit cheats with the full force of the state, yet it sanctions a much more costly fraud by passively consenting to tax evasion on behalf of individuals who have no need of the state’s leniency”.
- In relation to the banks, the magazine enquired about the conditions set out for re-nationalisation. During the election campaign, Vince Cable criticised the previous Conservative government for having “sold off the family silver on the cheap”, a reference to North Sea oil revenue. The Liberal sought assurances that the coalition would not make the same mistake, and that it would consider the coming windfall when making decisions about the depth of long-term cuts, as well as ensuring that regulatory structures were put in place to prevent a repeat of the crash of 2008.
For further comment, or to speak with the editor, call (020) 8444 1944 or 07812 650 399.
The Liberal is an independent publication dedicated to the revival of liberalism. It has no affiliation with the Liberal Democrats, although previous contributors include Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Chris Huhne, Simon Hughes, Menzies Campbell, Shirley Williams and Paddy Ashdown.