Monday, March 22, 2010

The Liberal Democrats: just what do they stand for??

Watching Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg on The Politics Show this weekend I was disappointed that he was not challenged on the [lack of] consistency and conviction behind Lib Dem policies and action. There’s no shortage of examples:

*Economic policy
Nick Clegg says he wants a fair society BUT has recently stressed his admiration for monetarist, ‘no such thing as society’ Margaret Thatcher! This presumeably will help his work for savage cuts in public services.

The LibDems [so-called] “green tax switch” promises to “cut income tax and switch to green taxes on pollution instead” BUT no serious Green would contemplate this. We need income taxation to pay for schools, hospitals, public services… So-called green tax revenue in place of income taxation means keeping the pollution going, to keep the revenue coming in, so that we don’t then have less money for schools, hospitals, public services…

*Democratic reform policy
Nationally say they want voters to have the power to sack MPs through a recall system BUT in Bristol Lib Dems opposed a Green motion to introduce recall locally.

*Transport policy
Norman Baker has said a LibDem government would stop spending on road building BUT his colleagues in Lancashire support the Lancaster Northern bypass.

Lib Dems wanted a moratorium on road building BUT then wholeartedly supported the Newbury bypass, the Batheaston bypass, the M74 extension in Scotland…

They favour congestion charging nationally BUT are against it in Edinburgh, Manchester and York.

Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has [rightly] complained that British rail passengers pay the highest fares in Europe BUT then he said the LibDems would improve matters by freezing UK rail fares - at the highest level in Europe!

Lib Dems opposed the expansion of Heathrow BUT have been happy to expand Birmingham, Carlisle, Exeter, Liverpool and Norwich airports – and enthused about Manchester airport’s second runway (except Lib Dems in Stockport, under the flightpath!).

*Waste management policy
LibDems in Sheffield argued for a new incinerator BUT in Hull fought against an incinerator. They stopped incineration in Bristol BUT have supported incinerator projects in Exeter, Plymouth and Barnstaple, and also in Essex.

*Energy policy
Say they want a zero carbon economy by 2050 BUT have opposed windfarm proposals in Cornwall, Cumbria, Devon and Worcestershire and in Lewisham the they voted against a Green Party budget package to insulate 25,000 homes for free. (They have until this year opposed Bristol Green Cllr Charlie Bolton’s budget amendments allocating more money for insulation.)

They say the environment is at the ‘heart of everything’ they do BUT the party is built on flip flopping opportunism not ecological principles. This explains their lack of joined up (systems) thinking, the root of all truly Green politics.


  1. You claim no serious Green would support a ‘Green Tax Switch’, quite a few GPEW members do! As do foreign Green Parties, but not the 'real Greens' in the Irish Green Party.
    How does the Lib Dem Green Tax Switch differ from the Canadian Green Party’s Green Tax Shift?
    “In essence, the Green Party believes that carbon emissions, along with other pollutants, should be taxed. The windfall will be used to decrease payroll taxes, allow income splitting, support seniors and help low-income Canadians.”
    Or the New Zealand Green Party’s Green Tax Switch
    "We're very clear, we want to shift tax off work and enterprise and onto waste and pollution," says the (NZ) Greens' co-leader and finance spokesman Rod Donald. He says that "tax shift" would involve making the first $15,000 earned tax-free - giving all workers $15 a week extra in the hand and helping business because of the resulting spending boost.

  2. Tax switching is fine - provided the right taxes are involved (should be indirect and not direct taxation).

    My view, as decribed in the blog post, is the same as the settled policy of the Green Party of England and Wales! I'm sorry but an assertion from an anonymous person telling me what the views of 'quite a few' of the members of the party I belong to are is just is not good enough.

    To switch from direct taxation to other taxes is in my view, and the view of my party, not truly green as it leaves you dependent on pollution for money. I would strongly advocate switching of indirect taxation, such as VAT, to taxes that have a clear ecological purpose and with money raised to be spent on improving sustainability though - these for me a true green taxes.

    Other Green Parties around the globe will have to speak for themselves.

  3. Further information on my party's policies:

    EC700 Taxation is needed in order to fund government expenditure. However the raising of funds is not the only purpose of taxation. The way that taxes are levied also has a vital role in bringing about a green society based on social equity and ecological sustainability.

    EC701 Direct taxation, in conjunction with benefits payments, can be used to create greater social equity and justice. Indirect taxation can be used to try to alter consumption patterns and create ecological sustainability. The purpose of a green taxation policy should not be to shift the overall relative burden of taxation either towards direct or towards indirect taxation. Instead, the aim is to alter our approaches to both direct and indirect taxation so that it is better suited to help bring about a green society.

    EC702 In general, indirect taxation is regressive, i.e. it impacts relatively more heavily on the poorer members of society than those who are more wealthy. In this way, indirect taxation works against the creation of social equity and, therefore, against the aims of a green society. For this reason such taxes should not be levied unless their intention is to help bring about ecological sustainability or to address concerns about other social issues such as public health.

  4. Sorry I'm wrong; the Northern Ireland section of the Irish Green Party does support a Green Tax Switch "Ensure that the bias in the collection of taxes is shifted from taxes on income to eco-taxes. This means different - not more - taxation".

    You can argue other Green Parties around the globe will have to speak for themselves (since when did climate change or pollution respect national borders), but these guys are standing for the same parliament as you. According to you (or rather Jones’s CIF article in fact) three Green PPCs standing for the UK parliaments aren't ‘serious Greens’.

    A rather large lack of constancy amongst UK Greens, as you say: ‘joined up (systems) thinking the root of all truly Green politics.’

  5. Point is that Lib Dems in the same party chop and change their stance, across a wide range of policies, from city to city and town to town, let alone from country to country!! I take it that you dont dispute the Lib Dem flip flopping on roads, recall, airports, waste...

    I'm afraid its a rather weak and limited point that you make. Dont forget that there is no UK Green Party - the England and Wales, Scottish and Irish parties are autonomous. I think they are wrong in their stance insofar as its described accurately and fully by you - a political opponent!!

    No differences at all between candidates in Green, but autonomous, parties would surely be surprising. Greens in different parties in different countries are not some sort of 'borg collective'!!

  6. Oh come on! There are countless examples of Greens in the same party chopping and changing their stance, from city to city too! Even in a single city - Oxford you have pro and anti nuclear power Green PPCs.

    I do dispute quite a lot as it happens, if I just pick your ‘happy to expand airports’ claim, examination of council minutes paints a different picture. Regional airport expansion was a central government policy. The legal advice given was - Ownership “would not enable the Council to subordinate commercial considerations to environmental concerns since the legislation governing local authority ownership of airports was designed to insulate business from local ‘political’ considerations.”

    It seems if Greens disagree it’s free-thinking autonomy, if Liberals disagree it’s flip-flopping.

  7. I give examples of Lib Dem flip flopping over a wide range of policies and locations - to which I can add the recent approval of the South Bristol ring road and insisting on the closure of small primary schools in Bristol East despite initially opposing Bristol's Primary School Review outcomes.

    You quote examples from different countries and of different isolated individual candidate stances in one place.

    And you think these are on a par? No, its obviously a matter of degree - and Lib Dem flip flopping is in a league of its own, such that its a, marked feature of the party.


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.