>Remember last year Nick Clegg used the example of the cleaner on the minimum wage who paid a higher marginal rate of tax than her millionaire banker boss to demonstrate the intrinsic unfairness of the tax system?
Well, come the start of the new tax year last week, the cleaner has had a tax cut, or may have even been taken out of tax completely, and the banker now has to pay 10% more on his capital gains.
It’s not enough yet, but it’s a bigger step in the right direction than I’ve seen in my lifetime from either Labour or Tory Governments.
And it wouldn’t have happened without the Liberal Democrats.
There is, in Scotland, a very deep hatred, fear and distrust of the Tories. How do I know?
I feel it too.
You see, that fear is entirely justified after what they did to Scotland during the 80s.
My husband lost his job thanks to their pit closure programme in the 90s. For at least the six months running up to the General Election last May, I never lost that feeling of background nausea at the fear of what a Tory Government would do. Tax cuts for millionaires while the rest of us suffered. Handing out cash just for being married. You see, that fear is entirely justified after what they did to Scotland during the 80s. My husband lost his job thanks to their pit closure programme in the 90s.
The very mention of the word Tory is enough to provoke an adrenaline spiked fight or flight reaction in many people. It’s similar to some ways to how I feel about snow and ice. A fall 18 years ago on ice led to me not being able to walk or drive for months. I never want to go through that pain and isolation again. Unfortunately that fear renders me virtually housebound whenever it snows. The last couple of Winters have been such a joy. My vote goes firmly into the flight camp.
I have, on my infernal wickedness of Sky Plus, a selection of speeches by David Cameron and George Osborne. If I ever feel I’m getting a bit too cosy about what the Government is doing, I watch them. And listening to them articulate their special brand of narrow minded knee jerk nonsense never fails to give me the dry boak – but it affirms to me how much the Liberal Democrats are making the difference in the coalition.
My gut reaction to the Tories is shared by most, if not all, Liberal Democrats. That’s why we’re Liberal Democrats. I’m glad though, that when faced with the choice of fight or flight last May, we chose to fight. I don’t mean that in a combative, aggressive way. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we chose to get stuck in there and get some long standing Liberal Democrat policies and values implemented. Our ministers are doing everything they can to take the sting out of the Tories, and a lot of the time they succeed.
We’re not going to win every fight, but we’ll usually manage to get some sort of compromise that makes it a bit better. I’ve heard the word “compromise” being bandied about as if it were some sort of dirty word, some abandonment of principle. It’s ironic that it most often comes from Labour, a party which abandoned its principles for electability some years ago. Funny thing is, every human being who interacts with any other human beings understands that compromise is a necessary and vital part of any sort of relationship.
Liberal Democrats don’t feel comfortable working with Tories. We get on with it though because it was the only real choice after last year’s election. Even if Labour had wanted to stay in power, the numbers would have meant that the resulting government was incredibly fragile. The choice was to step up in the hour of the country’s need, or cower on the opposition benches and wait for another election to deliver a Tory overall majority.
We get a bit of criticism from the SNP about working with the Tories. This is a great irony given that despite what their rules say, Annabel Goldie’s party has been Alex Salmond’s first port of call over the years when he’s needed support. He’s got them to support his budgets, and vote with the SNP Government a great deal, if not most, of the time, and it’s looked like quite a cosy relationship.
Any UK Government elected last May would have had to have made cuts.Big cuts. Alistair Darling knew that when he suggested raising VAT. Liam Byrne knew that when he left a note saying that there was no money left. Cutting public services is horrible, but in the current circumstances inevitable. Being able to deliver tax cuts for the poorest and many other things despite those pressures has got to be a good thing.
There’s no doubt that the Liberal Democrats are acting as a brake on the Tories. We’ve delayed some of the worst of their ideas and got rid of some others. You’d be in a right mess if the brakes failed on your car – and so would we be if the Tories were in there on their own, with the influence of their right wing enhanced.
I may not like everything this Coalition Government does, but despite that, it’s without doubt the best UK Government I’ve known. I know Thatcher and Blair didn’t set the bar very high, but I believe my party’s using its time in office well. Much of the time we do exactly as we said. And when we can’t, we do our best to lessen the impact on the most vulnerable.