...a blog by Richard Flowers

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Day 2086: Coo!


It has been another exciting day here in Brighton, but this has been rather overshadowed by the news from Thailand.

It seems that some terrible right-wingers have parked their tanks on the lawn and started throwing their weight about. But as I said, this has been overshadowed by events in Thailand.

Dr John Reid has immediately rushed out a statement that he had no desire to be the next Thai Prime Minister. Unless, should he be called upon to serve, etc…

Speaking of deposed leaders, Mr CK1 Kennedy had the main hall packed out to hear him speak. He is almost as good as Daddy Alex at speaking, and managed to keep his twenty minute speech down to only forty minutes.

Looking well, speaking without notes, he ranged over a wide brief in his speech and flagged up a number of markers: he promised his LOYALTY to Sir Mr the Merciless (and a good thing too, with Sir M sat in the front row polishing his LASER DISINTEGRATOR) but clearly he also wants to let people know that he will be practicing CRITICAL FRIENDSHIP for the new leader.

Being free of the RESPONSIBILITY of being leader has let Mr Charles be MORE EMPHATIC about the KEY PRINCIPLES! He chose to pick on FOUR of them.

He began by calling on us to KEEP ALIVE the flame of electoral reform.

Reminding us that it is about time we had a proper elected upper chamber, he added a promise that he personally would amend any reform legislation in order to rename the upper house into something more democratic than the House of LORDS (sorry to my friends in the House of Lords club, there!)

Second he talked about the importance of REGIONALISM for England so that we can move to a FAIR and FEDERAL settlement for the whole of the country.

Then he talked about the VITAL importance of the ENVIRONMENT if any of us are to have a future.

Finally, he discussed INTERNATIONAL LAW, and how Lord Blairimort and the American Monkey-in-Chief have made the world a much more difficult and dangerous place.

Speaking of the USA, he urged us not to forget that being against the Neo-Cons is not the same as being against America. But he also reminded us of the importance of Russia, its resources and the impact it can have on the world and the world’s climate. And he spoke about Europe, urging us to be LOUDER about our support for Europe.

He talked briefly about the other parties, about the Labour he said:

Whom the gods destroy they first make mad!

He pitied poor Mr Frown the poison legacy of Lord Blairimort. And as for Mr Balloon, he had little time for empty promises. But he also gave us a warning to avoid the SIREN call of the HUNG PARLIAMENT and to keep our eyes on the REAL prize – more Liberal Democrat votes and more Liberal Democrat seats.

Getting Mr Kennedy’s backing was just the cap on what had already been a good day for Sir Mr the Merciless with his proposals for changing TAX being agreed by a good majority of the conference.

Before Lord Blairimort and Mr Frown came to power in 1997, the popular mood was that public services had been CUT and STARVED by the Conservatories for many years and it was time to accept a BIT MORE tax for a bit more spending.

But that was THEN. Now, Mr Frown has been raising taxes for quite some time, mostly by the back door, and people feel that the taxman has QUITE ENOUGH now, THANK YOU.

So it is quite right that we should not be taking MORE taxes, and instead just making the WAY we take taxes FAIRER and GREENER.

The people who wanted to keep the idea of a 50p top tax rate said that it was about SYMBOLISM: at the election last year we said that this was a simple and honest way to say look this is where the money COMES FROM.

But there is a PROBLEM now: the plans for cutting the basic rate and for raising the allowances to get a lot of people out of tax and a lot of other people out of higher rate tax cost MORE than the 50p rate would raise. A LOT more. So it turns out it would not be so HONEST to say that that was where the money was coming from, when REALLY it was coming from changing tax on wealth and from having top earners’ only get the same pension benefit as everyone else and – OF COURSE – from Green Tax.

There are people who like the 50p rate just as a SYMBOL that we want to raise tax on the rich in order to lower tax for the poor. But Liberals don’t believe in raising tax for its own sake, do we? It’s got to be FOR something, not just as a SHOW.

And another SYMBOLISM worries me too. I think that Mr Balloon would just spend all day and all night saying that it makes us a HIGH TAX PARTY just like the Labour. (Conservatories do that, you know.) It would have been a real shame to lose the SYMBOLISM of the GREEN TAX SWITCH like that.

But we had a good old debate about it – a debate of “substance and maturity”, Sir Mr the Merciless called it – and in the end the party voted and decided.


This is an example of PROPER DEMOCRACY – where the people REALLY get to make a decision that will make a DIFFERENCE. You might want to compare this with the latest DAMP SQUIB from Mr Balloon’s “Built Last Week”: 73% of Conservatories thought that this document was SO IMPORTANT that they could not be bothered to vote for it! Still, at least the Conservatories can look forward to their DRAGON’S DEN next week: that seems like a good way to make policy, doesn’t it – offering it up to a TINY group of ULTRA-RICH people in order to get their backing.

IRONICALLY, the new Liberal Tax Policy is one that can be envied by members of either of the other parties.

On the one fluffy foot, this policy aims to take two MILLION people out of taxation altogether and should benefit people in low and medium incomes. According to the independent IFS, all but the topmost ten percent of people would be BETTER OFF.

On the other fluffy foot, this shifts the basis of taxation away from penalising achievers and onto polluters, rewarding people for GOOD behaviour rather than COMPELLING them. Trusting people to make the choice of how their money is spent.

The press are, of course, DISAPPOINTED that we sorted out our policy in a sensible way so they are trying to pick holes in our plans. I know because I have been at more of our press briefings, and they keep asking the same question like it is somehow ORIGINAL again if someone different asks it.

If we are going to raise money from GREEN TAX, they say, doesn’t that mean that we won’t get enough when people CHANGE how they behave for the BETTER?

They do not seem to understand that our Shadow Chancellor Mr Vince Cable is a very clever man. He has done adding up and stuff! The numbers he has come up with already assume that LOTS of people WILL behave better and so avoid the green taxes. But no one (outside of the press, apparently) expects that suddenly EVERYBODY will start travelling by bicycle and holidaying in Brighton.

Some people would rather spend their Income Tax cut on a worse car or a holiday in the sun. Fair enough, that is their choice. They will be paying for the tax cut for everybody else.

Look at smoking: cigarette tax dissuades SOME people from smoking, but there are still smokers and their tax goes to pay for things for all of us.

In Denmark they have been very successful with Green Tax, succeeding in raising revenues AND cutting their emissions. That is what WE want to do too!

Plus my new friend Mr Andy Mayer has made me think about the benefits to be had if we improve the environment: fewer people getting asthma from smog; more people getting exercise so staying healthy; less damage to buildings and natural habitats. Thinking makes my fluffy head get dizzy, but good for him anyway!

In the end, even if more people than we can even hope for CHOOSE to do the good environmental thing, isn’t that BETTER for all of us, even if the taxman is short a few pennies? We ARE talking about SAVING THE WORLD here!

Liberal Democrat conference might sometimes seem very PAROCHIAL compared to a terrible military coup in another country, but Mr Charles reminded us and the Green Tax debate showed us that we are all a part of that big world and we all have our bit to do.

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