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Nick Clegg: Letter to Lib Dem members re Lords Reform success

By Editor
July 10th, 2012 at 11:36 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Letter from Nick Clegg to Lib Dem members  10.26pm, 10th July 2012

“Dear ……..

This evening we overwhelmingly won an historic vote on the Second Reading of the House of Lords Reform Bill – a Bill that will finish something our party started a century ago.

This is a huge triumph for our party, and a clear mandate to deliver much needed reforms to the House of Lords.

As David Cameron and I have both repeatedly made clear – in the Queen’s speech, in May 2011 in the White Paper and in May 2010 in the Coalition Agreement – the Coalition Government is committed to reforming the House of Lords. And we have every intention of delivering it.

The Liberal Democrats have worked closely with our Conservative partners to bring forward a Bill they could support. We have been reasonable and looked at acceptable compromises at every stage. That is why we agreed to withdraw today’s timetabling motion, to allow the Conservative team in Government take more time over the summer to talk to their backbench colleagues.

When we return in the autumn to vote on this again, we fully expect the Conservatives to deliver this crucial part of the coalition deal – as we have delivered other coalition policies. At the same time, we will increase the pressure on Labour to, as the Guardian put it this morning, ‘simply stand up and do the right thing’ and support these reforms in votes in Parliament when it really counts.

We have been waiting for Lords Reform for 100 years. Today we took a huge step towards delivering it. There will be many more tests ahead, but with your help we will continue to make and win the case for reform.

Best Wishes,

 Nick Clegg

Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister

 PS If you haven’t already, it’s now as important as ever to show your support for Lords Reform and sign the petition here.”

Seriously ?

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Clegg’s solution to complex tax code: another tax!

By Angela Harbutt
March 10th, 2012 at 12:51 pm | 1 Comment | Posted in Liberal Democrats

A rather depressing Telegraph online headline today reads “Nick Clegg goes after the ultra-rich” . Nick Clegg  has apparently recently “uncovered evidencethat our tax code is too complex and that complexity is benefiting tax-lawyers and the super-rich.

The Deputy Prime Minister says he has uncovered evidence that hundreds of millionaires are paying a tax rate of less than 20 per cent on their earnings by using an “army of lawyers and accountants……. A wide array of tax loopholes and reliefs are exploited by the wealthy to reduce their tax bills, leading to them paying overall rates on annual earnings beneath those faced by ordinary workers, he said.

“Uncovered” really? Good grief – where has he been for that last couple of years ? Here is an article from Mr Littlewood (formerly of this parish) now of the Insititute of Economic Affairs back in Autumn 2010.

Early this year, an IEA research paper showed that with over 8,000 pages of primary legislation – in very rough terms about six times the length of War and Peace – Britain has the longest tax code in the world. For those inclined to believe that other Western European countries are always more bureaucratic than Britain, it was worth noting that the German and French tax codes weigh at a comparatively modest 1,700 and 1,300 pages respectively” Mark Littlewood: Telegraph 8 September 2010

Then again one year later Littlewood said it again …

The Tax Commission research points to the incredible length and complexity of our tax rules as the principal culprit. Tooley’s corporation tax guide, for example, has nearly trebled in length in the last decade. It now has a word count not dissimilar to the complete works of Shakespeare. The TPA amusingly illustrates the farcical scale of our tax code by showing that one of the fastest readers on the face of the Earth would take five days to read it out loud.  Goodness knows how long it takes to understand it“. Mark Littlewood: IEA blog 16th August 2011

Er.. And again a month later…

“The UK’s tax rules are now so complicated and lengthy that British businesses spend around £20bn a year simply trying to comply with the rules . Not handing over a single penny in tax, just filling in paperwork and attempting to calculate their liabilities. That’s an overall cost of around £300 for every man, woman and child in this country every year.

Things are getting worse, not better. When a country’s tax rule book is five times longer than the complete works of Shakespeare – and growing – you can only expect this kind of ludicrous waste and inefficiency. If the laws of association football were this long and confusing, you’d probably need hundreds of referees at every game and it’s doubtful the sport would be viable at allMark Littlewood: Mail On Line: 29th September 2011

Littlewood’s answer to the problem – simplify the tax code by employing best practice from other countries. That (according to Professor Philip Booth (IEA)) would save about £5billion in regulatory costs but also disproportionately assist small businesses being crippled by the burden. It would, of course, also eliminate a lot of the highly complex loopholes much beloved of the rich.

Clegg’s answer to the problem – introduce another tax!  If it was April the 1st I would be laughing. It isn’t and I am not.

Any chance that Clegg’s bizarre approach to this (much-publicised) problem is connected to a certain event being held in Gateshead this weekend?

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When is Nick Clegg going to grow up, decide what he wants to be, and just lead?

By Editor
March 2nd, 2012 at 7:00 am | 8 Comments | Posted in Leadership, Liberal Democrats

The internal politics of Nick Clegg’s decision to co-author a letter to activists with Baroness Shirley Williams are not hard to understand. Left-wing activists and the professional NHS staff interests amongst the membership would and could still deliver a stinging rebuke to his Leadership through a wrecking motion at Gateshead next week.

Judging defeat certain, and no doubt encouraged by threats of resignations, defections and ritual suicide by members of his ‘peer-group’, he has bravely decided to give in to their demands to present a united front.

Charitably we judge he may have been poorly advised. Nick’s preference for conflict-avoidance and invertebrates in his inner circle, is far more consistent than his public statements. His Leadership bid was so anaemic that a substantial opening lead was eroded to the point that Chris Huhne’s ‘triumph of the will’ campaign was only thwarted by a postal strike.

Rather than reform the party prior to the last election in the manner of Blair or Cameron, Clegg chose instead to genuflect to the self-regarding piffle of the party’s sense of it’s own exceptionalism – most often articulated through the notion that a few hundred activists meeting twice a year in an empty hall have opinions more valid than the 60,000 (or so) party members who can’t afford a holiday in Newcastle, or indeed the wider electorate.

So should we then be surprised that having upset all the left liberals over tuition fees, in turn a result of not preparing the party for change, he has now had a crack at upsetting all the market liberals over the NHS, for exactly the same reason?

Not really.

Does it matter?

In the short-term, not a great deal, the Heath and Social Care Bill was already a fairly weak reform programme, entirely mishandled by Lansley and Cameron, and there is no guarantee Clegg’s “tantrum” or Williams amendments will change much. Much of this row is about perception and positioning.

In the long-run, Clegg has two problems. First he has allowed his name to be a attached to a string of quotes the left can beat him and allies with until the end of his career. A selection and the issue:

“people not profits”

– an empty slogan, usually to be found on protest marches organised by the hard-left. It broadly means all private enterprise is evil. Try reforming anything now, banks, employment law, tax… “people not profits” will come the cry.

“competition only on quality not price”

– another empty slogan that if it did mean anything would surely be applicable outside health. Does Clegg now wish to ban price competition in all markets?

“no government will be able to once again favour the private sector”

– even if the public sector is rubbish. Is that the Tube drivers threatening strike action unless bribed to do their well paid unskilled jobs during the Olympics… thank goodness we don’t favour the private sector.

“private providers can only offer their services where patients say they want them”

– which is a curious double standard for those of us who are forced to use the public sector whether we want it or not due to the absence of competition.

“the NHS is never treated like a private industry.”

– other than in respect of employment law, tax law, health and safety, the supplies and services they buy on the open market, the agency staff that work there, the work they outsource and so on. This is both pandering to the complete fiction that the NHS is an entirely public sector operation, and opening all the parts that are not to attack. Thanks Nick!

“(no) threat of takeover from US -style healthcare providers”

– boo US health… boo… what about all those nice EU healthcare providers who produce good outcomes in more mixed systems than the UK? Again pandering to a destructive myth.

“insulating the NHS from the full force of competition law.”

– because as liberals we believe protectionism, mercantilism, and monopoly is a superior way of delivering services than for example allowing innovation or choice… you what?

“Foundation Trusts cannot focus on private profits before patients.”

– killing and maiming people is not profitable. Making them better faster in comfort on the other hand tends to attract other customers and repeat business, but horror oh horror that’s both the profit motive and desire to do good all mixed up… can you imagine trying to explain that on a focus leaflet?… well can you?… will no one think of the children who devise our campaigns?…

Second, no one, from Baroness Williams, to the Miliband Tendency in the Liberal Left, to his coalition partners thinks Clegg actually believes any of this crap. Rather than looking like a magisterial negotiator shrewdly steering the path of the possible through his allies and foes, he just looks weak and vacillating. Clegg’s image problem has never been proximity to David Cameron’s world-view, it’s his utter inconsistency. Once again he has flipped his floppy quiff rather than follow his instincts.

For the left, they now know the Orange roadblock in the Leadership can be rammed out of the way with placards. Screaming and shrieking nonsense works. Today people not profits, tomorrow the US government caused 9-11 and covered it up. This is unlikely to enhance party unity, only leave Clegg’s allies dejected and his foes hungry for more. Starting no doubt with a wrecking motion at conference. So what was the point.

When is Nick Clegg going to grow up, decide what he wants to be, and just lead?

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What do we want “LAWS”.. When do we want him “NOW”

By Angela Harbutt
February 4th, 2012 at 9:52 pm | 11 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats

Lib Dems overwhelming want David Laws back in the mix – big time. A Lib Dem Voice survey of members , released today, suggests that an overwhelming  72% of Lib Dem members in the LDV sample want to see David Laws return to a ministerial post in the Coalition government, with most wanting to see him return to the cabinet.

There are some Lib Dems who think that he is better placed to stay behind the scenes and mastermind the next election strategy. I have some sympathy with that. We do need someone who knows what they are doing, this time around, running that. But what we need, just  as importantly right now, is to be able to show we are competent in government.With ideas that work and a positive message for what we can achieve rather than prevent. Getting Ed Davey (who has been phenomenal in  Business)  into the Climate job and  Norman Lamb (who has spent too much time behind the scenes) to take up Ed’s post are both excellent moves. But if there was the chance of adding David Laws to the line up who wouldn’t think that was a pretty impressive team to field in the all-important run up to the next general election.

If David Cameron is serious about this partnership – and if Nick Clegg really does have the balls to do what’s necessary – then it surely can’t be long before David Laws is off the subs bench and back in the game?

UPDATE – Sunday Telegraph reporting that Laws may be in for a big job… GET IN.

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Nick Clegg sets out his vision

By Simon Goldie
December 20th, 2011 at 3:07 pm | 5 Comments | Posted in Liberal Democrats, Liberal Philosophy, Policy

This Monday, Nick Clegg set out his vision for British society. As someone who has argued that Clegg has been weaving a liberal narrative from liberalism’s rich tradition, it is interesting to see Clegg draw these strands together.

Clegg distinguishes the socialist, conservative and liberal views of society. He argues that socialists, or social democrats, believe in a ‘good society’. Conservatives want a ‘big society’ and liberals promote an ‘open society’.

He makes it clear that there is some overlap for liberals with a ‘big society’ as both conservatives and liberals are sceptical of State power. There are also differences, which is why Clegg is a member of the Liberal Democrats and not a Conservative.

There is very little in the speech that nods to any overlap with Labour’s ‘good society’ bar that both parties see themselves as progressives. On this point, he makes it clear that Labour’s progressive agenda is based on a fixed blueprint. Having a set view is not, according to Clegg, compatible with an ‘open society’.

Clegg makes it clear that his liberalism is about people. As far as he is concerned the other two competing traditions put their faith in the State or non-State institutions.

The speech also covers some policy. Clegg’s interest in taxing unearned wealth fits with a party that has long had a fan base for land value taxation.

He ends the speech quoting Karl Popper.

The party now has to flesh out these ideas on social mobility, dispersed political power, transparency, a fair distribution of wealth and property and an internationalist outlook.

The challenge after that is to build an electoral base who support an ‘open society.’