Nick Clegg has launched the Liberal Democrats General Election campaign saying that four ‘principles of fairness’ will drive the parties manifesto commitments. While doing so he said that the recession means;
that some multibillion-pound spending commitments we have promoted in the past – like new free childcare entitlements, a new citizen’s pension or free personal care – will no longer be firm commitments in our manifesto, but will be put on hold until they become affordable again.
Lets be quite clear that there is nothing fair about withdrawing policies meant to increase state support for vulnerable (and least self-sufficient) groups within society while maintaining things such as a ‘multi-billion pound committment’ to the failed war in Afghanistan. The cost of which runs into billions;
A total of £14bn in the contingency reserve funding has been spent so far on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including £5.2bn on equipment.
Ministry of Defence spending is also ballooning;
the Defence Budget is set to increase from a baseline of £32.6Bn in 2007/08 to £36.9Bn in 2010/11
Nowhere in what Clegg says will you hear a critique of the complete futility of this. For somebody who wants to make ‘tough choices’ and argues for a ‘language of priorities’ this is surprising. Like many things it does not make much joined-up economic sense either (‘fairness principles’ aside).
Looking at the principles in-depth then there are some good points (as you would expect from a vague policy statement) and some negative ones. The committment to take the lowest earners out of income tax is a good one though it is wrong that this is not accompanied with the need for more taxation at the higher end of the scale.
The committment to tax bank profits sits oddly with our committment to break them up. Will the tax be before or after? Obviously, it’s a central question because it materially affects the amount of revenue raised. On a wider scale, Clegg obviously wants to have his cake and eat with taxation; presenting us both as the party of tax-cutting and widespread investment.
In practice, it is quite clear that Clegg is willing to cut essential areas of government spending to square this circle;
Only two areas would be designated for additional spending pledges – education and infrastructure investment – paid for by cuts in other areas of government spending, said Clegg.
What about health? What about welfare? Clegg also seems to have amnesia; forgetting his ‘Dont Short Change Our Troops’ and the illiteracy of it’s costing would most likely lead to yet another increase in MOD spending (such as its description of communications staff as ‘non-essential’ which is risible). In short, scratch the surface of Clegg’s ‘principles of fairness’ and there are some very unfair conclusions reached…..