I wrote the post, Olly Kendall gets it wrong, last Tuesday mainly because his discussion of the “radicalism-versus-responsibility agenda” pushed a number of my buttons about how I believe the Liberal Democrats need to go about their business. My, slightly more aggressive in tone than I had intended, choice of title seems to have propelled it into this weeks LDV Golden Dozen.
My argument was that we need to be radical and distinctive and shouldn’t be afraid to be seen as going beyond the mainstream, and that this should apply to economic policy as much as it should to other areas of policy. However, in arguing that we “don’t need to be ‘responsible'”, I was emphatically not arguing that we should be free to talk nonsense. Yet that appears to be what the Party has been doing with regards to tax policy last weekend.
I have supported Nick Clegg’s recent repositioning of the Party regarding taxation for two reasons. First, in the current economic and political climate it makes sense to emphasis old fashioned liberal ideas of thrift and value for money. It puts us in the same place as a huge part of the electorate are. Second, the actual proposals, as I understood them, meant tax cuts for the poorest and so are fully in-line with our progressive instincts and objectives. So I thought it was a good move. One that carries with it some risks – but I thought our arguments for how we would pay for these tax cuts were, just about, convincing enough.
However, the Leader’s apparent attempt to go further in his interview with the Sunday Telegraph would have, if he hadn’t later rolled back in his interview on the Westminster Hour, been much more problematic.
While I do not believe it is worthwhile the Liberal Democrats striving too strenuously to become “the party of credibility on the economy”, what we do say, especially about tax, has to be consistent, thought-out, realistic and, yes, credible. So maybe, as Olly says, the challenge for Clegg at the forthcoming conference really is “Reconciling this radicalism-versus-responsibility agenda and communicating it effectively” – its just the audience that will need to be convinced will be in the hall and not outside.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.