Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/503/3152
The Socialist 27 September 2007 |
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Liberal Democrats - Struggling in third place
"PUBLIC OPINION will force Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling to hammer the rich at the next election," claimed Lib Dem leader Ming Campbell at his party's annual conference, before he announced plans to give the rich, at best, a mild ticking-off.
He is undergoing a bit of a hammering himself as falling poll ratings put the Lib Dems on 15%, with Labour on 37% and the Tories on 34%.
In disarray, the Lib Dems are panicking that despite all the problems facing the government and the fact that the Tories have declared open season on David Cameron, their poll ratings have nose-dived from 22% in 2005. Ming is taking the flak for this, being variously described as too old, too tired and too lacking in vision. But the truth is that the three main parties are all trying to occupy the same ground, the pro-privatisation, pro-capitalist so-called 'middle ground'.
While the Lib Dems like to see themselves as populist and radical, under closer examination their policies are not very radical at all. For instance they advocate taxing the rich by abolishing tax relief on capital gains for private equity and cutting pension tax reliefs for the rich; but they have dropped their demand for a 50% tax rate for those earning over £100,000. Their proposal to cut 4p off the basic rate of tax would benefit high earners far more than the low paid. They promise to raise child benefit by £5 per week, but to finance it by cutting means-tested tax credits.
Moreover, all these measures will be 'revenue neutral' - public spending will be held at the same level as under Gordon Brown with the same implications of cuts for public-sector workers and services. They fail to mention privatisation at all, not surprising as their party is involved in privatising local services in towns and cities under Lib Dem control.
When the Lib Dems asked voters if they thought the gap between rich and poor had become too wide, they didn't define what they meant by rich. When voters replied in a YouGov poll that they thought the gap was too wide, they would have been surprised to learn that the Lib Dem proposal to narrow the gap would lead to increased tax for middle-range earners rather than a significant increase in tax for the super-rich.