My Mum, Nick Clegg, and Norman Tebbit

Chris Black

Chris Black

When I won my first election to the council, my Mum, bless her, was delighted for me. She began voting Liberal in the 1980s, though she respected any politician whom she thought was willing to speak out. This meant she liked Arch-Tory Norman Tebbit and Labour left-winger Ken Livingstone.

Because of this she’d be contemptuous of the current Conservative councillors on Rochford District, who nowadays seem barely allowed by their party to even speak in full council meetings, let alone vote freely. But that’s another matter …

Sadly my Mum died some years ago. But I think she’d be fascinated to see that even Norman Tebbit is now supporting a Lib Dem proposal.

The proposal is about cutting income tax. We want to change the system so that nobody would pay any income tax on their first £10,000 of earned income. That would mean the average worker would be £700 better off, and four million people would stop paying tax altogether. We would fund it by such things as changing capital gains tax and clamping down on the use of offshore companies to avoid paying tax.

Norman Tebbit wrote for the Daily Telegraph:

“… only one party leader seems to have grasped that, if you construct a system where unskilled people are worse off by taking a job than by staying on welfare, they remain trapped in poverty – and that is Nick Clegg … the two main parties are unwilling to bite on the bullet and commit themselves to raising the income tax threshold from £6,475 to something like £10,000 or £12,000. It is madness to claim that people so poor that they need welfare payments are at the same time sufficiently well-off to pay income tax. The effect is that people at the bottom of the stack living on benefits who try to get back into work are hit by 20 per cent tax, 11 per cent National Insurance and benefit losses that can add up to almost 100 pence in the pound.”

So even Norman Tebbit can see we are right! It would make for a fairer tax system – and the economy has certainly became more unfair in the past 40 years, the gap between rich and poor grew much wider under the Conservatives – and things haven’t changed under Labour, And Nick Clegg is right on other economic issues as well. For example, the government said they didn’t want the US food company Kraft to take over Cadbury’s. There’s every danger now that this takeover will lead to job losses in the UK. Nick has rightly protested in the Commons that the deal’s only going ahead because Kraft are being loaned money by RBS – which is now 84 percent state-owned! When taxpayers bailed out RBS, I don’t think we expected to see our money used for this …

I couldn’t write about Lib Dem economic policies without mentioning Vince Cable – the man that the other parties would love to have. Vince has provided us with an overarching strategy for the economy, which I don’t think Labour and the Conservatives have really got.

What does this strategy mean?

First, the nation’s finances are in a mess, so there are going to be some difficult cuts to make. For example, Labour’s unrealistic programme to further increase the number of people going to universities would be cut back. And we would stop tax credits for high earners.

Secondly, the foundations of our economy were damaged by the actions of the banks. The most important part of banking reform is to split the banks up. So we would have ordinary ‘retail’ banks where people deposit their money that are separate from the banks that carry on with those risky deals and loans. No other party is saying this, which is a pity.

Thirdly, for the long-term recovery of the country, we need investment in our infrastructure in ways that make sense in terms of economics AND green issues – for example, in our railways.

Finally, we need fairness, and that’s where that “No income tax on your first £10,000” comes in.

The shock over the closure of Eon in Rayleigh – and the way it was handled – has made it a very bitter start to the New Year. I spent 11 months out of work back in the Thatcher recession of the 1980s, and I know just how desperately demoralising it can be to be out of work, even apart from the financial aspect.

It’s the Lib Dems who have the best economic policies for Britain (although if you are very rich you will do better under the Tories). There’s a general election coming soon – and there’s a good chance of a hung parliament, where our ideas can be put into effect. Fingers crossed …