Clegg launches ‘Make it Happen’ with call to cut taxes

by Stephen Tall on July 17, 2008

The party website has a blue mast-head, a youthful leader and a call to cut taxes for low- and middle-income earners: yes, the Lib Dems’ leader Nick Clegg has today launched the party’s new ‘Make it Happen’ policy and consultation document, and made an unequivocal pitch to voters wanting to kick Labour out of office and mistrustful of the Tories’ ability to marry economic competence and social justice.

Nick showcased the proposals on this morning’s BBC Radio 4 Today programme:

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has outlined his pledge to cut taxes for low and middle-income people, as part of his proposals to make “Britain fairer”. He said “struggling families” should be paying “much less” tax while “wasteful” government spending should be cut. Among proposals in a policy document is that the NHS should pay for patients not treated “on time” to go private.

Labour and the Tories are committed to the same spending levels but Mr Clegg says they are not “set in stone”. Mr Clegg said his party was looking to make £20bn savings in government spending in order to cut taxes for lower and average earners and bring down the overall level of tax.

And here’s the conclusion of today’s Independent leader column:

Today, Mr Clegg will make a bold attempt to give his party a clear identity once more, with his document Make It Happen. He will introduce a new policy of cutting income tax to 16 pence in the pound, by increasing green taxes and wealth taxes. Adroitly moving into a space that David Cameron has left empty, Mr Clegg will also be announcing that it is his party’s aim to cut taxes overall, something that Mr Cameron will not do in his anxiety to decontaminate the Tory brand.

This is shrewd political calculation by Mr Clegg. It seeks to recast the Liberal Democrats as the party of the small state, liberal in social policy and in economics. It will cause trouble among some Liberal Democrats, who instinctively prefer to tax and spend generously, but we have not heard any better ideas for getting the party out of Mr Cameron’s shadow and making it visible again.

Mr Clegg has a mandate from his party and he deserves an upturn in his party’s fortunes, which has eluded him all these months. Perhaps today will see the start of it.

For what it’s worth, PoliticsHome.com’s ‘politically balanced ph100 panel’ reckons this is canny tactics:

It’s a smart political strategy for the Liberal Democrats to promise tax cuts for people on low and modest incomes. That’s the verdict of the PHI100 on Nick Clegg’s recent speech saying that is how he intends to fight the next election.

A solid majority of the politically balanced panel (sixty two per cent) think that promises like this will give distinction to the Lib Dems and boost their support. Just over a third of the panel (thirty five per cent) disagree. The minority view is that it sounds unconvincing as a policy and will cost them votes.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, liberal panellists gave their unanimous support to Mr Clegg’s move. Less predictably, majorities of left-leaning and right-leaning panellists also think he is on the correct track, and they think this in similar proportions.

So three questions to throw open to LDV readers:
1. what do you make of Make it Happen?
2. what do you think of the party’s move to shed its tax ‘n’ spend image in favour of being the only party committed to low taxation?
3. is this smart politics that will inspire you to campaign for the Lib Dems where you live?