We can all now see the things that Nick Clegg prevented
We expect bad things for the poor from the Tories. They like the idea of their being an underclass whose can be exploited for low pay and poor conditions. More of them later.
What appalled me most from the budget yesterday was the pitiful response from the Labour Party. When challenged about the Tory decision to keep wage rises in the public sector to 1% a year for the next four years Chris Leslie, Labour’s so-called shadow chancellor, acquiesced. He said that this was better than wide scale redundancies.
The sad thing is that this does not surprise me. The public sector employees have endured a 3 year total freeze on wages and a reduction in conditions during the coalition government. It would have been 4 if Labour had their way. In 2010 they wanted to keep wage rises down but the LGA Lib Dem group as part of the JNC negotiations insisted that there should be a rise of 1% plus and extra .25% for those on the lowest pay scales.
So our nurses, our teachers, our cleaners, our lecturers, our social workers many of whom are already very poorly paid will yet again bear the brunt of austerity.
Who thinks that wrong? The Liberal Democrats. Nick Clegg made it abundantly clear before the General Election that public sector pay should rise in real terms and in the last year of the coalition government that began to happen.
Meanwhile the Labour Party has bought in to so many of the myths of the benefits of banking; the benefits of ‘trickle-down; the benefits of buy to let landlords; and the benefits of un-restrained capitalism generally. The Blair/Brown Governments caused many of the problems that had to be faced from 2010 generally. They failed to save in good times and had nothing in the kitty for bad times. They failed to listen to Vince Cable and re-regulate the banks after the Tories had de-regulated them. Much of the damage to our economy was done on Labour’s watch – not least a 10 reduction in the proportion of the GDP raised from manufacturing over their 13 years of the 430,000 reduction in the number of available social homes as they carried out Thatcher’s Right to Buy policy of selling BUT NOT replacing with new social homes using the money raised from the sale.
Tony Blair, Gordon Brown & Millibubble were all blueLabour. We will only know if they have changed if Jeremy Corbyn get elected as Labour Leader. Otherwise for the next 5 years Labour will bleat about poverty but not come up with a viable economic strategy to replace it or actions to deal with it in those areas that they control.
In Liverpool the Labour Leader openly seeks campaign donations from big private sector companies. His campaign extravaganzas being eagerly supported by the likes of Redrow Homes and Homes & Bargain.
Let’s look at the other parts of the budget. Some of the things were good.
Another £1.5 billion in the coffers from none-doms who overstay their welcome and live and work here but don’t want to pay their taxes. Nothing wrong with that. Indeed it is rectifying a mistake first made by Labour who were dazzled by the wealth of these people and who wanted to emulate them.
Reduction in the tax allowances available to buy to let landlords to create a level playing field with owner occupiers is really good, especially for the south of England where properties have been snapped up by landlords who then get a further income from the taxpayer by way of benefits.
A fair wage to be paid for by employers rather than poor wages supplemented by tax payers. A great principle and some movement towards ensuring that taxpayers did not prop up poor paying employers. UK based companies will be able to offset their increased costs against corporation tax or other taxes on profit. The big losers will be the likes of Amazon and Tesco who minimise their taxes here by transferring their earnings to lower tax regimes elsewhere. They will have to meet the costs of this.
But the Tory moves, even when they come to full fruition in 2020 do not go far enough. The gain in income will be met be larger reductions in tax credits so many people will be considerably worse off. These people are not the skivers that the Tories bang on about but the strivers. The families where the parents go out to work, work hard and are still unable to bring home enough cash from 2 full time jobs to maintain what we would all accept as an adequate lifestyle.
Other moves were even worse. The ending of maintenance grants for people from poorer families will end one of the triumphs of the student loans debacle. The last 4 years have seen a massive increase in the number of people entering universities from poor families. They did so because of the enhanced grants that the Lib Dems negotiated with the Tories and because of the easier terms and conditions of the loan itself. This one move will reverse that and will accelerate the trend towards making Universities the distinctive and exclusive enclaves of the middle classes.
I said many times during the 5 years of the Coalition that you saw the things that the Government did but you did not see the things that the Lib Dems had prevented from happening. I know Nick Clegg spent more of his time firefighting the worst excesses of the Tories than he would have liked. That is why I respected him for defending his liberal instincts with a very weak bargaining hand within the coalition where the Lib Dems were heavily outnumbered.
Now we all know what he prevented; an attack on public sector workers; an attack on the poor; an attack on human rights; an attack on environmental standards. That is one of the reasons that I am confident of our future. Under either Tim Farron or Norman Lamb our Party will have a leader with a strong moral compass based on the principles of liberalism.
We believe in “a society where none shall be enslaved by ignorance, poverty or conformity”. An internationalist party and an environmentalist party.
I hope that this Tory budget and the inept and incompetent response to it from Labour will bring even more people into the Party on top of the 18,000 who have joined us since the General Election.