LDV members’ survey, August 2008 (2): what you think of Make it Happen’s tax-cutting agenda

by Stephen Tall on August 5, 2008

All this week, Lib Dem Voice is publishing the results of our first ever survey of party members. Some 133 of you accessed the survey via our private members’ forum. We don’t pretend it’s a representative sample, but that doesn’t mean it’s without value either. We hope you, LDV’s readers, find it interesting. Perhaps the wider party will, too. This is the first in what we intend to be a monthly survey – if you have ideas for future survey questions, please email me at stephen@libdemvoice.org.

The second set of questions asked what you think of the Lib Dems’ Make it Happen proposals, and in particular the pledge that the Lib Dems will fight the next election on a tax-cutting manifesto.

LDV asked: In July Nick Clegg launched the Lib Dems’ Make it Happen policy proposal document which will be debated at the party’s federal conference in Bournemouth in September. The surprise announcement was the party’s commitment to reduce the overall level of taxation, something which David Cameron has refused so far to do. Do you think this is the right thing to do?

* Yes – the tax burden is now too high. The Lib Dems are right to want to reduce it. 63%
* No – the current tax level is essential in paying for vital public services. 37%

Here are a selection of your comments:

• I think that we need to give people some relief. I would not say, however, that we should be a small state party as a point of ideology.
• Reducing the level of taxation of lower incomes is smart. The moment that the public were ready to pay for improved services has passed. Let’s cut spending that is not needed i.e. ID cards, expensive weaponry etc
• Neither option fully reflects my view. Appropriate redistribution via the tax system is what is needed.
• we have an image as a high-tax party which we need to address
• As a Lib Dem I personally will NOT repeat NOT vote for any Party proposing higher taxes in view of the epic waste of resources by Govt
• Reducing tax on low-income earners is a sure-fire vote winner. Don’t be afraid to increase it on the rich – there is too much inequality and people know it.
• We can’t spend money we don’t have. If the economy is shrinking, so must public spending.
• We will have to work hard at making it credible, and making it clear it is both redistributive and liberal.
• The burden is too high for those on low to middle incomes, and emphasis needs to be more on taxation of pollution and unearned gains
• Liberalism is not about providing public services, it is about freedom. Public services may temporarily serve that interest, but they are a means not an end. Today public services restrict freedom more than they enhance it, especially for the poorest.
• There’s nothing more liberal than giving people more control over their lives by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned cash.
• promising tax cuts on hypothetical savings is intellectually bankrupt -shame on us for indulging in this sport.
• but the key thing is taking low income people out of paying tax altogether. This is a socially just move.
• I strongly agree with reducing the tax burden on low and average paid people but yet to be convinced that we know where to find enough savings to reduce the overall tax burden AND continue to fund key pledges.
• But i want to see us talking about making sure people who need support/benefits do actually get it. We mustn’t follow the constant Labour/Tory attacks on the vulnerable eg ‘work for dole’ etc
• Stupid question that doesn’t allow nuanced answers.
• Happy for redistribution of tax burden, and wish it could be marketed as such. Utterly alienated by constant reference to “hard-working families” – did I join the Tories by accident?
• If anything – raise them!

LDV then asked: And do you think Make it Happen’s tax-cuts pledge is a tactically smart thing to promise, regardless of whether you agree with the policy?

* Yes – the party is right to promise tax cuts as it makes the party distinctive from the Tories, and might help secure Lib Dem seats in southern England. 62%
* No – we should seek to replace Labour as a progressive left-of-centre party committed to state-funded public services, focusing on winning Labour seats. 38%

This was the question which attracted most criticism, to some extent justifiably, on the grounds that it’s not a question of either/or. Here’s some of what you said:

• I don’t think it will make any difference to LD-Con battleground seats where we need to be clearly different from Cons
• Yes- but we should think of principle before tactics. Being committed to state funding does not endorse supporting waste
• And in northern England. Everyone feels overtaxed.
• See Glasgow East: massively state funded, Massively poor. Low social mobility.
• I don’t agree with either of these statements. I don’t accept that it is a tactical mistake in Labour-held seats. I don’t think it’s a ‘right wing’ policy.
• I find the options here a somewhat false choice. We can still be progressive and generally “left-of-centre” while supporting tax cuts for the poorest
• We offer tax cuts that can appeal to progressives, so this could help us against Labour too
• Politics is, at the minute, dominated by economics. Offering people the chance to pay less tax should work well in the current climate
• bad question. Our tax policies are far more redistributive than anything the Labour party has proposed
• Yes, and we should replace Labour as the party committed to state-funded public services
• I think we can propose tax cuts and be attractive to Labour voters. The tax burden on the poor is the worst
• I really think yes and no. Tactically I’d prefer we’d tried to push the fairer distribution of the tax burden more – even though reducing the overall level was the right thing to do.
• There’s a vacuum in the liberal left at the moment, and it is that ground we should be filling. Behaving like Yellow Tories is a betrayal.

LDV members’ survey, August 2008 (1): the Lib Dems and by-elections