Conference: Make It Happen debate… the live-blog

by Stephen Tall on September 15, 2008

Yes, it’s the day of the Big Debate on Make It Happen, the party’s policy and consultation document, and there’s keen anticipation here in the conference hall. Over 100 members have applied to speak so far, so we can expect some fiery views on both sides of the should-we-cut-the-tax-burden debate.

The party’s manifesto chief Danny Alexander has introduced Make It Happen – plenty of warm applause, including for the line that tax cuts for ordinary people are very much part of a social justice agenda. He urges conference to vote down Paul Holmes’ and Evan Harris’s amendment, arguing it will undo all of the good of Make It Happen.

He’s followed by Paul Holmes who’s moving the amendment to Make It Happen, noting that he agrees with almost all of it but urging conference not to vote for a cut in the overall tax level when there are so many needs for investment in public services. His passionate peroration gets a rousing reception.

Mike German, outgoing Welsh Lib Dem leader, is up next supporting Make It Happen: “I don’t want bigger government; I want bigger people”. It’s lucky he’s not leading the Liliputians.

Richard Grayson speaks for the amendment, stressing that it calls simply for public investment to be placed ahead of tax cuts. Now Graham Watson, leader of the Lib Dem MEPs, stresses the impact the Lib Dem tax cuts will have on ordinary people, those “struggling to put food on the table, or pay for their children’s school clothes”. (Incidentally, Alix-of-the-People’s-Republic will be pleased to hear Graham stress people, not families). Then the sneaky part – Graham explicitly links defeat of the amendment to support of Vince the Superhero.

We have two lords now: Lord Roger Roberts, in favour of the amendment, who reveals he’s responding to the very many text messages he’s had expressing dismay with the party’s tax-cutting agenda; and then Lord Tom McNally, who argues that tax-cutting is in the social democratic mould. Lord McNally also uses the Back-Vince-or-else line: “there’s no point giving Vince a standing ovation in the morning if you’re going to kick away the plank from underneath him in the afternoon.” Some cheering for this.

[Apologies, teh internets is on-the-blink here in the LDV Cupboard, so I missed a couple of speakers. Let me assure you they made jolly good speeches on both sides of the argument. Incidentally, the applause for those moving the amendment is markedly more lukewarm since the Vince Pincer movement of Graham Watson and Lord McNally.]

Jo Swinson is up now, speaking from the floor rather than the platform, earning kudos for ‘ordinary memberiness’; repeats the Make It Happen arguments that tax cuts for low earners is a practical way of addressing social justic problems.

[I’m not live-blogging the interventions from the floor, by the way, because BBC Parliament doesn’t flash up their correctly-spelled names, and I don’t want to commit any faux pas. Suffice to say they’re evenly balanced – though all those in favour of the amendment have their own ideas of how the £20 billion of spending cuts could be spent… which is sort of the problem when you start raising taxes: when do you stop?]

[Oh, interesting – Vince Cable has been called to speak. It’s clear the leadership wants to win this one. The Vince Pincer earlier wasn’t enough: now we get Vince himself to coax and convince.]

Duncan Brack is now up arguing for the amendment, making the not-unreasonable point that announcing tax-cuts before you’ve worked out how they will be funded through spending cuts, and asking how that increases the party’s credibility. Of course, the answer to our credibility gap is… Vince. Speaking of whom…

Vince Cable gets up, a conference hall swoons… “Millions of voters are saying to us, ‘We just want a bit more freedom.'” Vince argues you can’t spell out in detail the spending cuts now with which we’ll go into the general election. He concludes with a clarion call to oppose the amendment. The Hall simultaneously orgasms.

Richard Younger-Ross: “forget the Cameron-effect, have journalists not heard of the ‘Clegg effect’… we’ll gain seats in the north and we’ll gain seats in the south under Clegg’s leadership and with Make It Happen”. Argues that care for the elderly and scrapping tuition fees must come before tax cuts.

Tim Farron puts forward, forcibly, the argument that tax cuts for the poor is about social justice, and notes that a woman in his constiuency on £7k pays £2k in tax. “Labour tax cuts have always been about comforting the comfortable, ours are about lifting the poorest out of poverty”. I’m discovering today what those who attended the rally on Sunday learned: Tim Farron is a terrific speaker. We should hear more from him, I feel.

Chris Huhne: “Helping the hard-pressed, by whatever means, has always been our mission” – a deeply intellectual, well-thought-through speech. Interesting international comparison: he’d happily vote for tax-cuts as a Swedish liberal, and vote to increase them as an American liberal.

Evan Harris is winding-up in favour of the amendment, and starts off with an ice-breaking joke: “Nick you needn’t worry… too much.” He makes a nice point that, under a devolutionary Lib Dem government, the proponents of Make It Happen are arguing for local government spending cuts: “good luck to those of you want to campaign on that platform”. Conference knows what to expect from Evan: a barn-storming, wit-infused speech of passion. Evan knows what to expect from Conference: he’ll be on the losing side.

Simon Hughes, arguing for Make It Happen’s adoption as president of the party and chair of the federal policy committee, notes how the new policies will distinguish us from Tories – whose only announced tax-cuts are for double-millionaires with large estates, and stamp tax on shares: how’s that for helping out ordinary people? Simon sums up the Make It Happen tax message pretty simply: “If you’re very rich you’ll pay more; if you’re not, you’ll pay less.”

The speeches are over, now time for the vote. (You have to be sitting down in the conference hall to vote, I’m afraid: bad luck for those sitting down comfortably in front of their computers).

Result of card vote:

** The amendment is “clearly defeated”. ** (Though not “clearly” defeated if you’re watching BBC Parliament, which decided not to show the delegates in the hall at this point).

** Make It Happen is passed overwhelmingly, with only “a very few” against **

In truth, the result was never really in doubt. Compared with two years ago, when the Lib Dem conference voted to ditch its commitment to the 50p tax-rate for top earners, the switch to proposing overall tax-cuts targeted at the poorest has not exercised Lib Dem activists over-much. Now all we have to do is let the public know what Make It Happen is all about.

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Vince as suggested tax cuts could be of the order of 4p (or equivalent)
http://tinyurl.com/54tz6j

Firstly that’s the first time I’ve heard a figure put on the scale of any tax cuts (strange that such clarity emerges after the debate)

Secondly that would add up to around £12bn. Doesn’t leave much left of the £20bn.

It would be unthinkable to drop pupil premium (Nick’s leadership election flagship proposal) or extra police which adds up to about another £3bn.

Anyone really believe you can get increased pensions and free care for the elderly (not to mention scrapping tuition fees, developing zero-carbon energy and high speed rail) out of the remaining £5bn?

That leaves us with a real problem – clearly there will be tough choices. It’s one thing to say we’ll leave announcing detailed proposals until the election. But people need to be campaigning on these things now and for the next two years – not in the three weeks after the manifesto is produced.

by Hywel Morgan on September 16, 2008 at 9:33 pm. Reply #

I am the Surrey County Councillor who was on the radio during conference. Thanks to Tony Greaves. I agree 100% with your comments. It is also important to me that it is Tony Graves saying it as he has reputation in the party. I would have a different take on Oranjepan’s view if he was Nick Clegg or Iain Dale.

My future in the party is on a knife edge. I joined in 73 and am now very demotivated and will like others above not be doing much in the next 2 years. I have been persuaded by colleagues to stay in the party and fight. I was here a long time before Nick Clegg and I dare say I will be here a long time after he has gone.

Please let’s not be dishonest with ourselves. The whole debate was about tax cuts for the middle classes and parking our tanks on the Tories’ lawn. This will not work here in Surrey because if you are in favour tax cuts you’ll vote for the real tax cutting party, the Tories and if you want social justice you now don’t have an option so we have lost our argument to Labour voters.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 1:03 pm. Reply #

@John D,

“Please let’s not be dishonest with ourselves. The whole debate was about tax cuts for the middle classes and parking our tanks on the Tories’ lawn. This will not work here in Surrey because if you are in favour tax cuts you’ll vote for the real tax cutting party, the Tories and if you want social justice you now don’t have an option so we have lost our argument to Labour voters.”

I’m sorry, but I don’t understand how you can say that. For a start, saying the Tories are “the real tax cutting party” is an article of faith the most extreme blue rinser would hesitate to make. they’re not are they? they have pledged to cut inheritance tax and stamp duty. That’s not a real full-blown income tax cut.

As for social justice, our cut in the basic rate benefits all lower rate taxpayers, reducing their tax by a fifth. In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit, you have to believe that the term poor can only be used on those earning less than £6k, which is a total nonsense. The NMW is higher than that on a full time job.

The chief problem people earning less than 6k have got is that they don’t earn enough money. They need help from things other than tax cuts – that’s obvious. What I don’t understand is where we’re supposed to have said that we’re not going to help them, when actually all benefits will either be retained or even increased under a Liberal Democrat government – except for tax credits, which will be withdrawn from high earners.

Everybody on this thread seems to be assuming that if you give a tax cut to basic rate taxpayers – including those on the minimum wage – it must mean you’re not going to do anything for non taxpayers. Why this totally artificial imposition of either/or?

John McCarthy: “Those who refuse to do arithmetic are doomed to talk nonsense.”

Perhaps not entirely fair here as tax arithmetic is hardly common knowledge. John D, please let me know if you want any tax calculations for low earners to put in your campaigning materials and I’ll do them with pleasure.

by Alix Mortimer on September 17, 2008 at 1:19 pm. Reply #

“Vince as suggested tax cuts could be of the order of 4p (or equivalent)
http://tinyurl.com/54tz6j

Firstly that’s the first time I’ve heard a figure put on the scale of any tax cuts (strange that such clarity emerges after the debate)

Secondly that would add up to around £12bn. Doesn’t leave much left of the £20bn.”

Well, the existing proposal for a 4p cut was costed at about £20bn. So what Cable says implies that virtually the whole of the money saved by these hypothetical £20bn spending cuts would go directly into tax cuts.

Clearly that’s completely different from what the party was told before the vote – that only what was left after satisfying our spending priorities would go into tax cuts, that we couldn’t guarantee any tax cuts at all, that about £5bn might go into tax cuts (Hughes).

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 1:26 pm. Reply #

CCF, you’ve missed out the fact that other taxes will be going up.

Afaik, we’ve identified £20bn of spending on projects that we don’t approve of, and want to cancel this. From there, we take £15bn and spend it on other projects, and put £5bn towards an income tax cut. The remaining (say) £15bn required to fund the income tax cut comes from green taxes and the removal of loopholes for the rich. The total net spending cut and net reduction in taxes is £5bn, with the end result that the rich pay more and the poor and average earners pay less.

by Rob Knight on September 17, 2008 at 1:42 pm. Reply #

Rob Knight

No, the policy agreed last year – the 4p cut from income tax – is what’s meant to be paid for by a combination of green taxes and increased taxation on “the rich”.

That has all been agreed and that 4p cut is party policy. Clearly what Cable is talking about here is the additional tax cuts the party is proposing – which are to come from the £20bn hypothetical spending cuts.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 1:58 pm. Reply #

Thanks for the offer Alix but I am not interested in whether we are giving low earners an extra £5 or £6 a week.
In Surrey, one of the richest places on the planet it is virtually impossible to get a social care package unless you are at death’s door or destitute. I have a non life-threatening condition where I have been waiting nearly 2 1/2 years for treatment.
My son’s school is oversubscribed and struggling to fit all the kids into a set of buildings that are over 40 years old and flood when it rains hard. I went to University for free and got a grant cos I was a working class kid, something denied to today’s youngsters.
Public transport in Surrey is poor and the Tories are looking to cut subsidies to buses meaning we will probably lose evening and weekend services used by the poorer people in our society. Trains into London in the rush hour are so overcrowded that if we treated animals this way there would be an outcry. We need to spend £200 million just to get the roads in a position where they are acceptable. I am currently campaigning for a pedestrian crossing on a busy main road but at current spending levels it will take 5-6 years to get to the top of the list, unless, god forbid, someone is killed.
Across Surrey we have £1.5 million per year allocated to combat climate change, slightly over £1 per person.
Consequently rather than middle class tax cuts I would like to spend that extra money on social care, health education, transport and climate change.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 2:05 pm. Reply #

John D, that analysis does ignore the fact that lower taxes means more money that people can spend on those priorities for themselves. In fact, it might be a lot more efficient for people to spend their own money improving their own lives than having to do so via state mechanisms. Just a thought!

by Rob Knight on September 17, 2008 at 2:17 pm. Reply #

Alix:
“As for social justice, our cut in the basic rate benefits all lower rate taxpayers, reducing their tax by a fifth. In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit, you have to believe that the term poor can only be used on those earning less than £6k, which is a total nonsense. The NMW is higher than that on a full time job.”

Now I’m convinced you are deliberately misrepresenting what has been said.

No one has said “the poor will not benefit” from these tax cuts.

What people are saying – and it has been said so many times now that I cannot believe it hasn’t penetrated – is:
(1) The poorest – who do not pay income tax – will not benefit at all,
(2) People on the minimum wage will receive only a small benefit and
(3) The bulk of these tax cuts will go to the middle class, not the poor.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 2:37 pm. Reply #

“John D, that analysis does ignore the fact that lower taxes means more money that people can spend on those priorities for themselves. In fact, it might be a lot more efficient for people to spend their own money improving their own lives than having to do so via state mechanisms. Just a thought!”

I am almost speechless. So the people earning £10 to £15k are going to spend there £5 a week on health insurance, private schools and cars. Now I know I am in a paralell universe.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 2:43 pm. Reply #

Sorry about the typos in the above but I was distracted by the daftness of the post.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 2:44 pm. Reply #

John D:
“Now I know I am in a parallel universe.”

No doubt the same universe in which the state pension is £30 a week!

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 2:51 pm. Reply #

CCF muses “(1) The poorest – who do not pay income tax – will not benefit at all,
(2) People on the minimum wage will receive only a small benefit and
(3) The bulk of these tax cuts will go to the middle class, not the poor.”

The median gross pay in the UK is around £19K according to the ONS.
From the same stats, very few who earn anything earn less than the personal allowance. This means that the 4p cut to the basic rate would help an awful lot of people who are low earners. We also have polies about pensions, and benefits etc that will improve the lot of those with incomes of less than the personal allowance. These policies are alongside the tax cuts.

As to your points 2) and 3). Our policies now hope to be able to make additional tax cuts after our spending priorities are met, without cuts to front-line service spending. If that can be done, there’s no reason to accept/imagine that they will be used in ways that make 2) and 3) true.

by Grammar Police on September 17, 2008 at 3:49 pm. Reply #

Grammar Police
“As to your points 2) and 3). Our policies now hope to be able to make additional tax cuts after our spending priorities are met, without cuts to front-line service spending. If that can be done, there’s no reason to accept/imagine that they will be used in ways that make 2) and 3) true.”

Yes, of course these additional tax cuts are what we’re talking about! (As expressed by the title of this thread.)

In the article cited above, Cable suggests that the tax cuts “could involve some combination of cutting the basic rate or raising allowances”.

Either of those, or any combination of them, will obviously result in the bulk of the cuts going to the middle class.

All this has been discussed above. On the basis of £5bn tax cuts, we seem to have a consensus (!) that this would be worth at best something like £3-5 a week to those on the minimum wage.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 4:09 pm. Reply #

John D: Who said anything about private health insurance, private education or cars? And why pick those examples rather than healthy food, books or bus tickets? Taken to its logical conclusion, letting people have any more money than they have now would do nothing to really improve their lives. Hopefully I’ve managed to avoid making any typos, but now I’m the dumbfounded one.

I think you’re putting the worst possible interpretation on what I’m saying. I can understand that, because it’s quite easy to believe the worst of people engaging in these kinds of debates. But I’m hopefully being honest and well-meaning when I suggest that people might, in many cases, be better judges of how a sum of money should be spent than the government is.

I can entirely see what you mean, in that you’re assuming that money is going to be diverted away from desirable, worthy public projects and into the hands of private individuals who will spend it in some manner that neither benefits themselves nor society as a whole. I disagree and think that, within reason, people should have more chances to decide on how money is spent and that we have gone too far down the road of believing that the only morally good kind of spending is public spending by the government.

I’m a bit disappointed that you think that my opinion is stupid or perhaps even disingenuous. I don’t think the same of yours, although I disagree with it. And I think that we probably agree on a lot too (I’d like to see more redistribution than is present in this package, but I’d like to see the money being funnelled directly to the people who need it). Hopefully we can debate the relative merits of the two approaches whilst admitting that each other is honest and reasonably intelligent.

by Rob Knight on September 17, 2008 at 4:30 pm. Reply #

Rob Knight

You obviously did not read my post immediately above yours where I said I wanted the money spent on social care, the health service, schools and transport. I am not arrogant enough to say that people would not be able to spend their money wisely. I am saying these types of services benefit the poor proportionately more and they cannot afford the alternatives.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 5:28 pm. Reply #

John D,

Everything you’re saying, it seems to me, is still predicated on the groundless belief that a Liberal Democrat government would UNDERFUND frontline services, just because we’re also thinking about funding extra tax cuts.

This is an illogical mid-20th century fallacy. I don’t know which part of Surrey you live in, but I bet you could name half a dozen examples of local – and national – misspent money just like that. From national IT projects, QUANGOs, pointless grants and redevelopment agencies all the way down to hanging baskets and rebranding exercises (one for Wimbledon and Merton there!) we all know about public money going to the wrong places. We put it in our Focus leaflets.

So given the amount of funding that could and would be redirected, on what are you basing this notion that we would skimp on public service funding?

That’s my difficulty with your position. That’s what I mean when I say it seems to me you’re imposing an artificial either/or choice which just isn’t applicable. As if a Liberal Democrat government would sack a single nurse!

Please don’t listen to CCF at his silliest and most melodramatic. I’m not misrepresenting anything, I’m genuinely trying to understand your point of view.

by Alix on September 17, 2008 at 5:46 pm. Reply #

I don’t think we would underfund things or that there isn’t a lot of waste. I am saying that, we are not a particularly overtaxed country, and if we can save some extra money there are loads of things that the money can be spent on. Our current plans certainly do not pay for the following not exhaustive list.

Proper social care packages for all who need them.
Replacement of school buildings over 40 years old.
Smaller class sizes.
Free university education and support for those who can’t afford to go.
Decent public transport provision in all areas
Investment in longer and more frequent trains on most commuter routes.
High Speed Trains (nb I don’t agree with this one but it is a commitment with no obvious funding)
Bringing roads up to a decent level.
Climate change measures such as subsidising loft insulation, solar panels etc
Climate change mitigation measures like flood relief.

I could go on and on. Using the £5 billion as an extra tax cut (remember we are already committed to a 4p cut) would give a low paid worker less than a fiver a week, while those extra services would benefit the poorer more.

by John D on September 17, 2008 at 6:24 pm. Reply #

Alix:
“Please don’t listen to CCF at his silliest and most melodramatic. I’m not misrepresenting anything, I’m genuinely trying to understand your point of view.”

I wondered how long it would be before we got to the name-calling.

But really you could not have made the misrepresentation more obvious. You wrote “In order to argue, as you seem to be, that “the poor” aren’t going to benefit …”

The point is that you know perfectly well that people _aren’t_ arguing that. That’s been pointed out to you about a dozen times now. And yet you keep saying it. Why is that?

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 6:31 pm. Reply #

Funny isn’t it CCF, all sorts of people’s conversations with you turn into you saying “why don’t you understand?”. Maybe it says something about you.

by Clegg's Candid Friend's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 7:04 pm. Reply #

It is a pleasure to be able to agree with Tony Greaves. “The effect of this policy is likely to lose the support of progressive LD voters without gaining Cameron Tories in any numbers.”

Tax cuts for the middle class are not exactly a sensible priority when the government deficit is going to get completely out of control as the slowdown in the economy bites.

It is sad to see the LibDems drifting off to the right, trying to be mini-Tories. I shall expect to hear of the resurrection of the influence of the Gladstone Club soon.

Is the £20 billion a one off saving or an annual saving ever after? Are the income tax cuts a one off affair or an annual affair ever after? Do the two match up as time goes by?

And I agree with all that Tony Greaves says about Oranjepan and anonymity.

Oranjepan lowers the tone of debate with pointless personal comment from his position of anonymity. It would be good if there were blogs which only allowed identifiable people to post on them. Oranjepan’s aparatchik-like TeamClegg sycophancy and anonymous scorn for any opposition would be no loss.

Oranjepan and any other anonymous posters can say anything they like, but they need not expect a reply from me. However I am prepared to be fooled into replying to anyone who dishonestly uses a name that looks genuine, even if it is not. That is for their conscience.

Some Liberals are clearly disheartened by this move to the right. If any of you who are critical of what has been adopted are also EU-sceptic, please come and join the EU-sceptic continuation Liberal Party (www.liberal.org.uk) and help us grow for the EU Elections next year.

I am thinking of standing as a withdrawalist Liberal Party candidate for the South East Region, and could do with some help.

We are a small party, but so was the Liberal Party when I first joined it in 1964, and we very nearly won in Newbury in 1974.

Now, by being for fairness and against the EU, we are differentiated from New Labour ( on the EU), Conservatives (on fairness), LibDems (on EU – and more and more on fairness – what about the redistribution of the inheritance of wealth in each new generation?), UKIP (on fairness – they want to abolish Inheritance Tax altogether) and Greens (on the EU).

Yes, I know Tony Greaves does not agree with wanting to leave the EU – more’s the pity! But do we really have to go on taxing ordinary people every year so that the EU’s CAP can pay £300,000 every year to Gerald Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster (!) and £500,000 every year to Charles Windsor, Prince of Wales (!) for the privilege of owning land they have inherited tax-free?

Isn’t there a possibility of a bit of redistribution of income – as well as of wealth with British Universal Inheritance – there?

Dane Clouston

by Dane Clouston on September 17, 2008 at 7:16 pm. Reply #

CCFCF:
“Funny isn’t it CCF, all sorts of people’s conversations with you turn into you saying “why don’t you understand?”. Maybe it says something about you.”

Oh, come off it. My posts about these tax cuts have been perfectly clear, and so have those of the other people who are sceptical about them.

It’s not that the argument is at all hard to understand. It’s just that some people find it convenient to put a straw man in its place.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 17, 2008 at 7:35 pm. Reply #

Dane, I know we’ve crossed swords before, but that’s no reason to sink into ad hominems.

You are perfectly entitled to your opinion, but don’t try to pass it off as fact when the evidence is there for others to judge for themselves.

I am very happy with our position of promoting a great ‘tax switch’ as it is something we’ve been running on specifically for a couple of years now and it fits in with our tradition of opposing the dogmatic views of both the ideological ‘tax cutters’ and ‘tax ‘n’ spenders’.

So don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and don’t attempt to condemn my views as those of an ‘apparatchik’, as many of us were saying exactly the same things long before Nick Clegg became the leader of the party.

by Oranjepan on September 17, 2008 at 7:43 pm. Reply #

‘Oranjepan’

Just to repeat what I have already said, do not expect a reply from me from now on, anonymous poster, unless and until you reveal your identity.

With your anonymity shield and personal remarks, such as attributing “bitterness” to Tony Greaves, to take but one of many examples, you are not worth it.

Dane Clouston

by Dane Clouston on September 17, 2008 at 11:08 pm. Reply #

CCF and Oranjepan,

I am perfectly happy to debate with you guys, but your critics are right in that it really is best to use real names.

by Laurence Boyce on September 17, 2008 at 11:14 pm. Reply #

Given the amount of mud that gets slung around here – including mud slung by “moderators” employed by the party – you can hardly be surprised that some people prefer to remain anonymous.

I used to post under my real name, but I prefer not to lay myself open to that kind of defamation – particularly as, realistically, no kind of redress is available.

While the site allows anonymous/pseudonymous posting, people can respond or not as they prefer. But if people are incapable of producing a counter-argument, criticising someone for not posting under their real name is a poor substitute.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 18, 2008 at 12:25 am. Reply #

@John D

We’re in sympathy on nearly all those commitments, although:

(a) I’m not sure I’d consider environmental equipment subsidising to be a function of the state and

(b) a more general long-term point, most of your list is, in an ideal Liberal Democrat world, a matter for local government. Our ultimate aim is to devolve both tax and spending, so at what point should we say “enough” and stop finding things for the central state to spend money on? This is the principle, I think, behind the “black hole” argument, which wasn’t really given the airing it deserved in the debate.

But the thing is, it’s a bit pointless for me to say I agree with you on your list – we simply don’t know these aren’t going to be Lib Dem spending priorities. (I thought social care packages were already a commitment although I could be wrong about that.) In a sense, that’s a battle for you and others who supported the amendment still to win. Several of them I’d fight to become spending commitments myself.

I just don’t think a list of possible commitments – any commitments – can be drawn up as a sort of proof that tax cuts are *never* going to be the right thing. Comes back to the amendment I guess – it was very accurately worded for what it was trying to say. Surely the point is that as a party we would argue over each commitment, and the liberal tax-cutters among us would, I guess, look at each individual proposal for spending and assess whether we thought it or the corresponding tax cut would do less harm/more good. It’s a consensus we’ll reach, like parties do, with less-than-ideal features for individual members. But I really don’t think it’s worth getting this het up over the principle when we don’t yet know what the spending commitments will be by 2010.

Just written something about raising the Personal Allowance, if you’re interested. As I said before, anyone who wants to think about putting some pressure on the party on this, I’m all for it.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/17/libdemconference.vincentcable

by Alix on September 18, 2008 at 1:32 am. Reply #

CCF I suggest you learn what defamation means (and secondly, this site doesn’t “employ” anyone – and the Party certainly doesn’t employ anyone to run it!).

by A Lawyer and a Lib Dem on September 18, 2008 at 8:03 am. Reply #

“secondly, this site doesn’t “employ” anyone – and the Party certainly doesn’t employ anyone to run it!”

Oh dear. More “misunderstandings”. It can scarcely be an accident, can it?

Please read what I wrote again. I referred to a moderator employed by the party. I didn’t say anything about a moderator employed by the _site_ or about the party employing anyone to run the site.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 18, 2008 at 9:30 am. Reply #

And on defamation, the accusation made was one of habitual dishonesty. Of course that’s defamatory – unless it can be substantiated – even though it’s the stock in trade of many on the Internet.

by Clegg's Candid Friend on September 18, 2008 at 9:37 am. Reply #

‘fraid I have to go along with Clegg’s Candid Friend on this one. I withdrew some six months ago from the private forum because one of the ‘moderators’ decide to take something I had said and start a new thread with it, completely out of context. I found that totally unacceptable and, of course, never received an apology.
Shame, really. After 35 years as a Liberal / Lib Dem, and as an experienced campaigner and activist, I probably have a lot to contribute, but never mind, in the modern LD’s wet behind the ears moderators are more valued than people who win elections!

by Martin Land on September 18, 2008 at 9:46 am. Reply #

Re-reading my comment, I would like to clarify that when I say I agree with CCF it is on the principles of moderation rather than over the specific incident in question.

by Martin Land on September 18, 2008 at 10:28 am. Reply #

It would be an interesting debate as to whether a person employed by the party who was regularly and frequently moderating and contributing to this site in work hours was on a “frolic of their own”

by Hywel Morgan on September 18, 2008 at 11:04 am. Reply #

Boycee:

“I am perfectly happy to debate with you guys, but your critics are right in that it really is best to use real names.”

Why? No-one has yet actually explained why this is important. I suspect no-one else can be bothered to have this argument but you have a good reputation for stamina, so let’s have at it. Why isn’t it enough to use a unique, consistent handle on the Internet?

by sanbikinoraion on September 18, 2008 at 11:33 am. Reply #

Laurence Boyce,

Thank you for your support for the critics of anonymity! It is a subject related to the recently expressed concerns of the founder of the internet.

I think that using one’s own name has something to do with the integrity of the individual. Tony Greaves put it well to the anonymous ‘Oranjepan’ in the thread about Make it Happen.

If Tony, with his ear to the ground and his knowledge of the Liberal Democratic party, does not know who ‘Oranjepan’ is, I wonder who does.

Integrity and genuine communication with someone, knowing where you each come from, is better than giving in to the cowardice or fear that leads to anonymity in the interests of self preservation in whatever situation is important to the person concerned.

Of course, integrity and telling the truth are luxuries that not everyone can afford, particularly in unfree societies, but where it is possible to shed anonymity, I agree with you that it is much better to use one’s own name.

People using their own name are more likely to attack what other people have done, said or thought, rather than the people themselves with personal remarks. Karl Popper made this point with his talk of a Third World of Ideas, outside each of the worlds of the protagonists in an argument or debate.

It is always better to say “that was kind of you” or “that was stupid of you” rather than “you are kind” or “you are stupid”. With what seems to me to be the rather cowardly cloak or shield of anonymity, it is much easier to sink into the latter, over-generalising way of arguing and speaking, which leads to unnecessary heat and bad feeling.

Dane Clouston

by Dane Clouston on September 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm. Reply #

sanbikinoraion, I’ve never met Laurence Boyce so I can’t assume that it is his/her real name, nor do I think it is necessary or important to know however much he/she tries to assert it as fact.

The content of the comment is far more important than the person who says it.

(Alright, Laurence, I accept from the tone of your comments that you read like a male, so I’ll make a judgement call on the basis of probability where conclusive evidence is lacking – who can completely trust online avatars anyway?)

by Oranjepan on September 18, 2008 at 5:39 pm. Reply #

“Of course, integrity and telling the truth are luxuries that not everyone can afford, particularly in unfree societies, but where it is possible to shed anonymity, I agree with you that it is much better to use one’s own name.”

But there will always be some people who feel they cannot reveal their true identity whilst making a fair contribution online, whether they are whistleblowers or just people (like myself) trying to protect themselves from potential employers googling their name, disagreeing with their politics and not hiring them. It is ultimately not up to you to judge whether they feel they can make comments linked to their real name, it is up to them.

I think that LDV is enriched by the contributions of several handle-users including Passing Tory and Grammar Police and the unidentifiable “John D” and “Julian H”.

“People using their own name are more likely to attack what other people have done, said or thought, rather than the people themselves with personal remarks.”

So what? Even if that were true, which I doubt – do you have any evidence? – there are plenty of people who go by their handles who are able to conduct themselves perfectly well online. Has anyone really been slinging around personal insults here? The worst I can find from a quick scan is Tony Greaves basically labelling everyone who uses a handle here as sneaky and dishonest.

by sanbikinoraion on September 18, 2008 at 5:53 pm. Reply #

Oranjepan: I totally agree; I’m on your side on this one. Perhaps you meant to direct your comment at Executive Chef Dane Clouston.

by sanbikinoraion on September 18, 2008 at 5:57 pm. Reply #

Nice of you to say so, Sanbikinoraion.

My main reason for using a moniker is it enables me to post during short breaks in the working day without worrying that my employer thinks I spend all day posting on sites like this!

by Grammar Police on September 18, 2008 at 6:06 pm. Reply #

It wouldn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out who I am. A Surrey County Councillor with the name John D who has been on the radio over conference.

by John D on September 18, 2008 at 6:29 pm. Reply #

To be fair, John D, there are, like, a billion “John D”s in the UK 🙂

by sanbikinoraion on September 18, 2008 at 9:52 pm. Reply #

“To be fair, John D, there are, like, a billion “John D”s in the UK”

Eh?

Last time I looked there was only one on SCC. Am I suffering from some sort of post invisibility where only some parts of my posts appear? Methinks there are trolls about.

by John D on September 19, 2008 at 1:13 am. Reply #

John, yes, but just because *you* know you’re the John D on SCC doesn’t mean anyone else does. You could have been the John D from SCC on the radio without being the John D commenting on LDV, very easily. That’s all.

by sanbikinoraion on September 19, 2008 at 4:18 pm. Reply #

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