LDV members’ survey (1): big yes to tax cuts in recession

by Stephen Tall on November 24, 2008

Over the last week, Lib Dem Voice has invited the members of our private forum (open to all Lib Dem members) inviting them to take part in a survey, conducted via Liberty Research, asking a number of questions about the party and the current state of British politics. Many thanks to the 200+ of you who completed it; we’ll be publishing the results this week on LDV.

First up, we asked about the current state of the British economy. LDV asked: At our September conference, the party approved the Make It Happen policy document which committed the Lib Dems to an overall reduction in the level of taxation. As the UK enters recession, do you believe this approach to be the correct one?

Here’s what you told us:

Yes: 71.6%
No: 19.6%
Don’t know / No opinion: 8.8%

Those who commented broadly fell into three categories:

Those who support the policy wholeheartedly: “More so now than ever. A tax cut now for those on low and medium incomes could lead to a major boost for the economy at this difficult time.”

Those who support the policy but think the party’s presentation needs sharpening up some: “I really really think we need to communicate to people how this tax cut would be funded, as Brown keeps saying it would be a cut in public spending, when it would be a cut in stupid things the government are wasting money on!”

Those who worry the party’s policy of reducing government spending will lead to cuts in vital programmes: “the commitment to reduce public expenditure makes no sense, both because of priority needs, and because you don’t reduce demand in a recession.”

We then asked: Which of the following options best represents your view of how the Lib Dems should present this policy of tax cuts in the current economic climate?

You told us:

34.8% – Tax cuts are needed to give low- and middle-income taxpayers a fairer deal at a time of economic hardship. They will stimulate the economy and so pay for themselves.

20.6% – Tax cuts are needed to give low- and middle-income taxpayers a fairer deal at a time of economic hardship, even if they won’t pay for themselves. Any shortfall should be paid for by allowing government borrowing to increase.

23.0% – Tax cuts are needed to give low- and middle-income taxpayers a fairer deal at a time of economic hardship, even if they won’t pay for themselves. Any shortfall should be paid for by cutting government expenditure.

9.8% – Tax cuts are not sensible in the current economic climate. The party would gain more respect for reversing its position given the changed circumstances since Make It Happen was written.

10.3% – Other

1.5% – Don’t know / No opinion

Of those who picked ‘Other’, unsurprisingly the chief reason was to offer a combination of two (or more) options, as expressed by this commenter:

Tax cuts are needed to give low- and middle-income taxpayers a fairer deal at a time of economic hardship. They will stimulate the economy and so pay for themselves – they can be paid for by raising taxes and closing loopholes for the most wealthy and by increasing green (carbon) taxes. Any shortfall should be covered by increased borrowing but we still believe there are significant savings in government expenditure that can be realised without affecting front line services. And by the way – by reforming local democracy (STV) and devolving tax raising powers, giving more power to local authorities, services will be delivered more efficiently than is currently the case with wasteful national targeting.”

And finally, for today, we asked LDV-reading party members about the single currency: In September, the Lib Dem leadership signalled that the party would not be spending time campaigning for the UK’s entry into the single currency. Chris Huhne commented: “it’s completely off the radar and there is simply no point in regarding it as a runner worth investing political time in.” What is your view of UK membership of the Euro?

You told us:

24.0% – The Lib Dems should campaign for the UK to join the European single currency as soon as possible.
61.8% – The Lib Dems should continue to support the principle of the European single currency but recognise it’s not going to happen any time soon, and concentrate on other issues.
10.3% – The Lib Dems should oppose membership of the European single currency while continuing to act as a constructively pro-European, internationalist party.
2.5% – Other
1.5% – Don’t know / No opinion

The comments displayed a strongly pragmatic approach:

“Our support of the Euro should only be based on evidence, and facts on what is best for our economy, not just on blind dogma. If it turns out that the Euro would be a bad idea, then we should oppose, at least for the time, our entry into it.”
“A time of economic instability is not the right time to join the Euro. It should happen at some point but not until the current crisis is over”
“We believed that we should have joined the single currency long ago. Had we done so, we would have been protected from the recent devaluation, and been less exposed to market reaction to problems in the financial services sector. We were right and both Labour and the Tories were wrong – we shouldn’t back away from that now.”
“Although I’m pro-Euro, the battle will need to be fought in better circumstance than the beginning of a recession!”
“We must be far more robust in opposing illiberal measures from Brussels including the CAP, excessive regulation and “harmonisation”.”
“I am in favour of the euro and dislike the sentimental waffle about keeping the pound.”
“EU policy is a total mess. We should distinguish between support for Pan-European action (good) and the particular institutions etc of the current EU (bad, undemocratic, unfit for purpose)”
“EU enthusiasm = lost votes hand over fist. Be pro-European, not pro-EU.”
“The bigger priority is the way Europe is governed, sort that out first.”

You can read the results of all our LDV members’ surveys by clicking here.