Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Does Vince Agree With His Own Policy?

Vince Cable has received plenty of plaudits for his performance in the Chancellors’ Debate last night but, in part, this is due to the lack of scrutiny he receives for his policies. Imagine if Alistair Darling or George Osborne got themselves into the following tangle over child benefit.

About 9 minutes into the debate, Vince said this:

‘We‘ve spelt out very specifically, the only one of the three parties to do so, £15b of cuts we think have to be made. Painful and difficult, it involves discipline in public sector pay, looks at key areas of welfare services: getting rid of the child trust fund and child benefit for very high earners…’

This is not the first time he has proposed this policy. In a paper published by Reform in September 2009, he stated the following:

‘It is certainly incongruous to many people that the very rich receive child benefit. The IFS estimates that £5 billion or more could be saved by no longer making child benefit universal. The implication, however, of the tapering of child tax credit and the loss of universal child benefit, would be a loss of income for some middle income families. Such a reform would be easier to make if income tax were cut for standard rate payers. I favour making this reform in principle, but more work needs to be done on how to manage offsetting tax cuts.’

The position appeared to be backed by Nick Clegg in an interview in the Guardian, 19 September 2009.

‘I find it odd that people on multi-million pay packages from the city get child benefit. That's patently silly and patently unfair.’

However, during the Lib Dem party conference, the policy was ruled out (and mocked) by its DWP spokesman, Steve Webb:

“We’ve been able to conduct the review speedily over the last 24 hours – and I am pleased to say that the policy won’t be changing. I read…..we were going to look at ‘middle class child benefit’. I have looked at it – and I have rejected it.”

And on 7 March, Nick Clegg made it clear that he no longer thought it ‘patently silly and patently unfair’ that ‘people on multi-million pay packages from the city get child benefit’ but actually rather important when he said:

"We will not question the universality of child benefit. There are some benefits – and child benefit is one of them – I think it is quite important that everyone feels they have a stake in."

And child benefit is not listed amongst the cuts proposed by the Liberal Democrats.

So does Vince Cable not know what his own policy is? Or was he deliberately opposing his own party by pursuing his personal policy? Either way, if either George Osborne or Alistair Darling had done this, we would be hearing a lot more about it today.


Bartleby said...

Good spot Iain.

33% of the airtime, 18% of the vote yet 0% scrutiny. Disgraceful.

Anonymous said...

I think Vince meant Child Tax Credit and not Child Benefit.

Nice try though, Iain.

Anonymous said...

I'd strongly suggest that not enough scrutiny is given to Osborne either - but for this I don't blame the public, for at least Cable is putting something (anything!) on the table. Whereas Osborne, well, nothing as yet.

Unknown said...

I think he's referring to Child Tax Credit, not Child Benefit. Bit of a slip, though. Turns out he is human after all!

Not a sheep said...

With the support of the BBC Vince Cable is now widely believed to be an economic genius. Bear in mind that the last person that the BBC convinced us was an economic genius was Gordon Brown...

Unknown said...

He did indeed mean Child Tax Credit, and this has already been spotted. Slightly unprofessional slip of the tongue, but nothing more. The Lib Dems (wrongly, in my view) do not want to change the universality of child benefit. I suspect that, if they did, they would prefer to "progessivize" it by increasing it for lower earners, but it's irrelevant as this is not the policy.
@Bartleby, I presume your "disgraceful" tag is directed at the media for not scrutinizing enough. In which case, please tell us which newspapers/sites should do more to scrutinize LD policies and also write to them and tell them. The LDs would I'm sure appreciate your comments hugely.

Unknown said...

Yes, he meant Child Tax Credit - but this is still worth pursuing, as clearly Vince is sometimes (I think quite deliberately) out of step with official LibDem policy, not that this is particularly easy to pin down quite often anyway. In this case though he was just making a mistake.

I have to say I think he is looking older these days but he was sharp and clear and I can see why the public like him, consistently ranking him higher than both Darling and Osborne; this being why both Tory and Labour bloggers are after him.

I think he is quite a strong-willed chap and would follow his own thinking if invited into some kind of coalition, disregarding what the inexperienced Clegg tells him.

Desperate Dan said...

Labour, the Conservatives and journalists just let Cable waffle on making extravagant, and false, claims about his economic predictions and irrelevant policies. On the rare occasions when he's been challenged (ie Andrew Neil on Daily Politics or the civil servants at the Treasury who made him apologise for his delusions of future high office) he falls apart and shows himself to be the muddle-headed lightweight he is. He should be made to account for everything he says.

cassandra said...

Out of the multitude of stupid ideas invented by Brown Tax credits are right up in the top 10.
The idea is typical of Browns mentality a Byzantine spaghetti of a mess that positively invites fraud and waste.
The only fair way to help people is with a simple all in flat 10% tax with an 'everyone pays no exceptions'enforcement.
We as a nation simply cannot afford too many non productive passengers placing too high a burden on the productive population, that leads to ruin. We must find a way of making work pay enough to shift those who find they are better off as state passengers into a productive mindset.
It suits Brown agenda to have a class of supplicants and dependents reliant on the state but it is breeding selfishness and a degenerate benefit culture, the government should be lowering taxes and cutting its cloth to suit a lower tax take in the short term in order to reap a bigger return as more people become productive taxpayers.
It should be a government priority to root out fraud and benefit lifestyle living.
It should simply not be an option for people who could be productive to live off the backs of others work, those who can work should work and a welfare to work scheme and a time cap on benefit claims would help.
One crime of the political classes has been to destroy the small/family shop business in the UK, that has been a crime. A zero corporation/council tax regime on small family shops under 50 square metres in floor area would lead to flourishing high street patchwork of independently minded people and encourage self reliance,hard work,indepence and a spirit of a small time capitalism work ethic. People with a direct stake in their future will always make the right choices.
We are as a euro federalist once said "a nation of shopkeepers" he meant to insult us when in fact that was our greatest strength! The single greatest crime of the post war period was the destruction of the shop keeper class, the socialists hated and despised the stuborn independence and family centred self reliance that this class of people represented and they set out to destroy that class and create in its place a class of state ruled serfs.
The government works best as background enablers, when the government tries to play the suffocating stern parent it always ends in failure.
If the government simply got off the backs of people it would help.

cassandra said...

Dear Iain,

The mark of the post war political establishment has been the planned destruction of the stubborn self reliant independent minded working class. This class of people are very difficult for an authoritarian government to rule over, they represent everything an arrogant and over bearing state hates most. This class does not need or require a bloated bullying and intefering state poking its nose in and throwing its weight around.
The modern political class saw in the independent working class an obstacle to the big state model and destroyed that class over the decades.
If we as a people are to survive we must enable that class again, we must encourage self reliance and stubborn independence and clip the wings of the suffocating bloated state monolith, do that one thing and we have a chance of a decent future.


Cassie K

Mark M said...

Funny. I actually agree with Clegg's original position (about multi-millionaires) on the grounds that it's inherently inefficient for people to be both paying tax and receiving benefits. If I want to borrow £20 off you, you don't give me £50 then I give you £30 back, you just give me the £20.

This is why I'm a big supporter of the Negative Income Tax. A flat tax and a flat payment combine to give a simple, and more importantly efficient, tax and benefits system.

Anonymous said...

Yebbut, the old boob's only in there as a makeweight. It's a waste of time and oxygen subjecting any LibDem policy or announcement to intensive scrutiny, because it will have no bearing on the real world after the election. Dear old Vince won't be Chancellor, whatever happens. It might not be Darling, if Labour come out on top, and it might not be Osborne, if it's the Conservatives. It WILL NOT be Cable, unless and until the sun rises in the west and the Pope's a Muslim polygamist.

Torontory said...

The Conservatives need to hammer home again, again and again the point that George Osborne included in his closing remarks: that Cable will never be chancellor. Equally that Clegg will never be prime minister, Huhne will never be home secretary, etc etc.

The TV debates are giving the LibDems more airtime than their parliamentary seats warrant - they are not, nor ever likely to be, equals.

The choice for the country's future is Labour or Conservative; let's please make that point at every possible opportunity.

Steve C said...

Cassandra - love it. Couldn't agree more or have put it better myself. thanks

cassandra said...

Steve C,

Thanks for the kind words. My post is simply what many are thinking, all I did was find a basic form of words to put that feeling on Iains blog.
The solutions to our demise as a free people may seem to be enormous and wholly intractable when in fact the actions to remedy our national degradation are simple and can be enacted quickly with the right leaders in power, we need leaders with courage and vision combined with humility and loyalty to the people, leaders who are prepared to destroy the state power base and enable a flourishing national life, we can win as free men and women in a free nation or we can die slowly as serfs of the bloated superstate. The latter as history has shown time after time is a fate worse than death and as someone once said "I would prefer to live one day as a free person than live a lifetime as a slave".

jaybs said...

St Vincent Cable, what is this love in for a man who is good at doing the talk and loves to claim how good he is, but how serious are plans that will never be introduced.

The most dangerous action would be an hung parliament and for Cable to be given the position of chancellor to please the crowd? Last nights performance from Darling was a Grey as ever!

Boo said...

To be fair on Vince, its tricky keeping track of the Lib Dem policy and what he said was probably true at some point or at least one of the constuencys

Anonymous said...

Lib Dems are a joke party.

They have resorted to the "other two party jibe already". What Lib Dems fail to understand is by wanting to appear with Labour and Tories on debate platforms they have crossed the line where they are judged on the same terms.

Talking about the other two parties as they do bypasses the fact that the Lib Dems sat with Labour on Joint cabinet committees and had voting pacts with Labour. It is time Clegg, Cable and the rest in the dishonest Lib Dems were brought down a peg or two and their politics of the lowest base level were exposed. The Lib Dems have accepted a platform for debate, it is time the Lib Dems stopped their negative campaign of saying something different to every voter.

The Lib Dems are pious and forgetful their chief executive Lord Rennard abused expenses whilst the Lib Dems fail to repay the £2.4 Million dodgy donation. They wanted a platform but they should also have scrutiny, not just on the Lib Dem policies that change every day or like the tides of the sea but what they have done.

Anonymous said...

I'm fedup with Vince cable now. He proses on like he knows it all but he has zilch experience. OK he knows some things, but not as much as he thinks he knows.

neil craig said...

You are right that had another party done this the discrepency would have been spotted. The LabCon leaders share in theis since it has generally been seen as looking immoderate to criticise the LDs, running the risk of having 2 parties against you. However with all 3 being given equal nedia dabate time (& UKIP who won the last election in Britain ostentatiously excluded) they are going to have to face scrutiny.

I have no doubt that if the LDs were a real traditional liberal party, committed to freedom, national success & fre markets they would, such is the dissatisfaction with the LabCons, be in 1st place in the polls. I suspect even with Kennedy they would. Unfortunately they are a rag bag of deeply illiberal nutters wanting eco & other sorts of fascist parasitism, who are just stowed out with inane policies waiting to have the light shone on them.