A partial defence of the Lib Dems


I have to say one good thing about the Lib Dems: of the three main parties, they are the only with a single policy that will directly benefit me. As well as taking three and a half million people out of income tax altogether, their plan to raise the personal allowance to £10,000 would leave me about £700 a year better off. I certainly wouldn’t say no.

There are other good things in their manifesto too. Of the three main parties, I’d say they have the best plans for reforming the NHS, which include, inter alia, slashing bureaucracy and funding people to go private if the NHS can’t treat them within a set time. The Lib Dems are also strongly committed to civil liberties, and are undoubtedly the most localist of the major parties – they are more likely to disperse power from Whitehall than the Tories or Labour. All good stuff.

But for me there’s a problem: the Lib Dems’ desire to bash the bankers and soak the rich. According to the Spectator’s Martin Vander Weyer, Vince Cable’s response to business leaders opposed to the forthcoming national insurance rise was as follows: “I find it utterly nauseating, all these chairmen of FTSE 100 companies being paid 100 times more than their employees, lecturing us on how we should run the country.” And that seems indicative of a broader anti-business, anti-market sentiment.

As Allister Heath put it in City AM:

[T]he top rate of capital gains tax will be hiked to 50 per cent (from 18 per cent), crippling investors, private equity firms and landlords; £5bn a year will be raised by restricting pension tax relief to the basic rate, which would devastate the pensions industry; £1.7bn would come from the “mansion tax”, a class-war inspired form of double taxation which would slap a 1 per cent annual tax on homes worth over £2m a year, forcing thousands to sell their homes; £3bn from increased air passenger duty, further hitting tourists and business travelers.

The Lib Dem plans on capital gains tax probably deserve a blog post of their own, but suffice it to say for now that I regard the idea of more than doubling a tax on entrepreneurs and investors, just as we are emerging from a recession, as lunacy.

One last point: like many libertarians, I often hope for a resurgence of classical liberalism in the Liberal Democrat Party. And indeed, I know for a fact that there are lots of genuinely free-market, limited government Lib Dems, so maybe it will happen one day. But on the basis of their 2010 manifesto, we are certainly not there yet.