"Liberal Democrats – a party ahead of the pack" (And Other Media Stories)

by Stephen Tall on April 21, 2009

Time was the announcement of Lib Dem taxation policies would have been almost entirely ignored. And, if they were covered, the focus would have been exclusively on the ‘U-turn’ element of yesterday’s announcement that the party has dropped its less-than-a-year-old pledge to cut income tax by 4p in favour of raising the personal tax allowance threshold to £10,000.

But that time was Before Vince. Today, there is much positive coverage (in the former broadsheets anyway) of the Lib Dems’ tax-cutting pledge. Let’s start with The Independent’s glowing editorial:

… the Liberal Democrats have been ahead of the pack in policy terms too. When they proposed tax cuts to revitalise the recession-stricken economy last September few took them seriously. Since then, Barack Obama and Gordon Brown have both discovered the merits of the injecting spending power into the economy.
And now the party could be about to repeat the trick. The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, yesterday unveiled his economic team’s proposals to raise the income tax threshold to £10,000, cutting the taxes for those on low and middle incomes by £700 a year. …
The Liberal Democrats also seem to be ahead of the pack in their suggestions for spending cuts in the longer term to fill the structural deficit in the public finances left by the profound shrinkage of Britain’s financial services industry. The Liberal Democrats have identified public sector pensions, the expansion of university intake, “big ticket” military spending and the Child Trust Fund as areas where savings ought to be sought. By contrast, the other parties have barely begun to think about where the axe will need to fall when this immediate crisis is over.
Of course, the Liberal Democrats have more space than Labour or the Conservatives to make radical proposals on taxation and spending. But it has to be said that they have used their relative freedom thoughtfully. They show that there is a place in politics for boldness and original thinking. And who knows: it may even pay significant electoral dividends.

Then there’s The Guardian’s coverage of Vince’s pre-budget PoliticsHome.com briefing to the site’s opinion-formers:

In the past no one ever took much notice of Lib Dem pre-budget briefings. But today the Cowley Street boardroom was full for almost an hour as journalists listened to Cable, which tells you a lot about the reputation he has now acquired as the sage of the recession.

Even the Torygraph reports the story pretty straight: Poorest workers to pay £700 less tax a year under Lib Dems.

One day’s fair-ish coverage in the ‘quality’ press does not an election victory make (of course). But Vince’s unparalleled economic credibility with the public and media gives the party an opportunity to drive this positive message home.