Alex Massie

Liberal Measures That Need Rescuing By Tory (or Labour) Men

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Charlotte Gore is entirely correct:

Lib Dems have one killer policy: Set the threshold for Income Tax and National Insurance contributions at £10,000 a year (or roughly minimum wage). It’s so good Labour activists want their party to steal it. I wouldn’t be surprised if similar pressure is being put on David Cameron to do the same, although he won’t (tax cuts are for ‘Same Old Tories’ not modern, Compassionate With Your Money Conservatives)...

Its painfully obvious that if you don’t take tax off people in the first place, you don’t need a monolithic, incompetent bureaucracy to then give it back again, wasting money for the sheer hell of it. Redistributing wealth from one group of poor people (those without kids) to another group of poor people is a whole new level of messed up politics, and one that people seem to blindly support. In fact, I think I might go further. Raising the personal allowance to £10,000 isn't just the Lib Dems' best policy, it's probably better than any single idea offered by either Labour or the Conservatives. Shame it won't happen then...

But this is what third parties are for. Whether Nick Clegg ever gets his tiny paws on a cabinet department is much less important than the advancement of liberal ideas. Now, sure, you can create scenarios in which the Lib Dems actually make it into office (though, alas, the Scottish experience suggests that there's nothing particularly liberal about them once they do) but that's not what they should really be about. Indeed, there's something to be said for a third party that stands somwhat aloft from the fracas and the daily hurly-burly, offering instead a coolly analytic view of the political scene.

Party activists, of course, may not see it this way but absent a hung parliament the number of seats won by the Lib Dems is spectacularly unimportant. It's much more important that they develop ideas that are worth stealing (not least because, lord help us, Labour need all the intellectual help they can get).

In other words, the road to a classically-inspired liberalism doesn't necessarily call at Nick Clegg's house. But that doesn't matter. Winning the argument is more important than winning votes.

And on personal allowances the Lib Dems actually have a good argument. Now we just need other people to make it.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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