A new report has revealed that 35 out of the Liberal Democrats 53 English seats could be lost to the Conservatives unless they promise tax cuts. Coincidentally Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg has promised £20 billion in tax cuts condemning the Conservatives tax and spend plans as “unimaginative” and promising the Lib Dems will be “more creative”. The question is will the two main parties match the Lib Dems new pledge of tax cuts?
Liberal Democrat conferences are not usually the place where important new debates occur. Previous conferences have debated the issue of whether goldfish could be won at local fairs, how to protect the earth from asteroids and whether 16 year olds should have access to internet pornography. All weighty subjects no doubt but not priority issues for the average British citizen.
In short, Lib Dem conferences are usually snooze fests where barmy socialists and ultra libertarians battle it out for the right to control a party which has not seen power in eighty years. However, at this conference, a serious debate about the balance between funding essential services and relieving the burden on struggling families is beginning to occur. The Liberal Democrats have actually begun to talk about reducing the size of the Government and cutting tax and this is to be welcomed.
The two main parties should take note and respond. The Labour party is facing an electoral wipe-out with Conservative poll leads averaging 20 per cent. If the party does not take decisive action to respond to the needs of Britain’s struggling families they will be punished at the polls. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are eager to preserve their momentum in the face of this bold Lib Dem move onto Conservative turf. The Conservatives have been timid in their approach to tax cuts because they fear a repeat of the 2001 and 2005 elections when Labour successfully portrayed any attempt to reduce the tax burden as a secret Tory plan to sack thousands of Nurses, Doctors and Teachers. However, it seems the mood has changed.
The majority of people now recognise the amount of government waste and believe they can spend their money better than the Government. More than two-thirds of the population believe that the Government wastes one-sixth of the money it spends and over half think that figure is one fifth of the money it spends. Tax is now third on the list of concerns of British voters. This is a very different Britain to the one that massively endorsed Brown's 2002 national insurance tax increases to fund the NHS.
Taxpayers will reward any party that recognises the call for lower taxes and responds accordingly. The Liberal Democrat plan is not perfect. There are many flaws in it. The pledge to soak the rich by closing tax loopholes could cost this country dear by driving away wealth creators. However, a debate about significant tax reduction has begun and for this the Lib Dems are to be congratulated.