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Confused Liberal Democrat seeks help…

By Angela Harbutt
December 2nd, 2009 at 5:46 pm | 3 Comments | Posted in UK Politics

Having successfully recovered my pc from a near fatal crash (note to self to actually DO backups rather than think about doing it from time to time)…. I am back.

So what’s been happening whilst I have been off line? More hung parliament discussions (if I hear one more Noddy “explanation” as to “what that means in laymans terms”  I’m tempted  to do some real damage to my pc backup or no backup), more thoughts and declarations on Copenhagen, and, yes, the Lib Dem tax launch.

It was, of course, almost impossible to cut through all the headlines about “u turns” or “backtracking” on the original mansion tax policy to get to what the meat of the Liberal Democrat tax plans were. But they were there if you persevered.

But it’s all been about that mansion tax. That was originally, you will remember, the 0.5 per cent of value of property above £1 million, announced by Vince Cable at conference in September , without reference to the front bench, or the media team, seemingly – leaving open mouths from some, half-baked attempts at explaining by others and general chaos all round.

Vince’s original plan would have affected some 250,000 homes in the UK – many of them doubtless in the London commuter belt where the likes of Susan Kramer would be fighting for her political life (against the non domicile- thank you Zac Goldsmith).

That was catastrophically managed. But, as we said at the time, it won’t end there. And it didn’t… The mansion tax has been “tweaked” . Now its 1% on all properties over £2million.

And all the headlines on Monday’s tax launch  were “Lib Dems rethink their top housing tax policy”…. “Clegg denies U-turn over ‘mansion tax'”…. “Liberal Democrats backtrack over ‘mansion tax’“…. “Vince Cable forced to water down ‘mansion tax’“…. And so on…

Let’s put aside for a moment whether the Mansion tax – at whatever level – is a good idea or not. And consider the half-baked way this has been handled. It has dented Vince Cable’s reputation, it has allowed opponents the opportunity to question Libdem’s grip on financial matters, it has confirmed the “off the cuff nature” of the original announcement (how many times have I been told that one of our strengths was the “considered” nature of our proposals?), and perhaps most importantly stopped us from getting our message across.

I have been told that it’s not as bad as I think….that actually if you read the meat of the articles and listen to the interviews, then the LibDems did much to explain the full package of taxation proposals and that the Mansion Tax was only the headline. ONLY THE HEADLINE ? Don’t people realize that the vast majority of the voters ONLY READ THE HEADLINES? Not as bad as I think?  It’s probably worse than I am actually stating.

Someone please get a grip ….

I suppose the one good thing about the Mansion Tax fiasco if there was one, was that it largely distracted most commentators from asking whether the Lib Dems were doing the Hokey Kokey? Right foot in, right foot out …Left foot in, left foot out, … liberals moving towards small efficient government (all that talk at conference of those savage cuts) or lefties looking to milk the anti fat-cat sentiments?

And I don’t think I can answer the question “so are the Lib Dems for property tax generally?”.. “Well um…Yes”…,”Yes now”  (but only to get the country out of this financial mess?) “No not really” ?. After all we were the party of the “fair tax campaign” which we were running vociferously a while back (are we still running?) – where we stated that “The Council Tax is an unfair tax, based simply on outdated valuations of property and with no link to ability to pay. It should be scrapped and replaced with a system based on people’s ability to pay” . And which still apears on Lib Dem websites up and down the country.  Have we managed to square that with the mansion tax? If we have I am afraid it was buried under the “u-turn” headlines and I could find no mention of it in the published “liberal Democrat tax plans“. I was sure that I heard Vince say somewhere once that the mansion tax was a kind of emergency measure that would be replaced by a local income tax in due course. Did I dream that – or was that off the cuff?

I am so confused. How can the voters be anything but likewise? And that, quite frankly is not good enough. As I said. Someone please get a grip.

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