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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The sensible wing

This is a delayed post on the death of Ted Heath. Like Councillor Gareth Davies I have mixed memories of Heath's premiership. On the one hand I can still vividly recall the three day week and the miners' strike that led to his downfall, on the other it was during this period that I first became politically active, canvassing at the age of 14 in the 1974 elections for the then Liberal Party.

Ted Heath was also directly responsible for my first fully fledged political campaign, the 1976 referendum on European Union membership in which I and others fought to defend the vision that he had signed up to on our behalf.

Perhaps because my formative years politically post-dated the 1970 election and the period that saw him become the first 'modern Conservative leader', my memories of Ted Heath are dominated by his adoption of the longest sulk in political history following his defeat by Margaret Thatcher for the Tory leadership in 1975.

Some commentators have sought to blame him for creating the atmosphere that allowed Thatcher and her right wing agenda to come to the fore. For me, it was his subsequent retreat into semi-detached oppositionism that left the sensible wing of the Tory Party high and dry and allowed Thatcher to pick them off one by one. If he had hung in there and acted as a rallying point for the Conservative wets then they may well have been able to moderate Thatcher's excesses.

Tony Benn described Heath as being politically to the left of Tony Blair but frankly that is just standard knocking copy. The story I like most is this one from the BBC article on the tributes:

When asked in a TV interview if it was true that when Mrs Thatcher was herself deposed he said "rejoice, rejoice," he joked: "I think I said it three times."
I see that legacy of Seldon man is now hanuting the Liberal Democrats Peter

Charles Kennedy's suggestion that he may renege on the Liberal Democrat election promise of higher taxes for the top 1% ( leaves the Green Party as the
only serious political party willing to clearly state that the rich shouldpay more tax, advocating redistribution of wealth in this way.

The reasoning behind the Lib Dems drastic policy reversal may be
multifarious, but it seems clear that the Lib Dems, like the Tory and Labourparties, are basking in the patronage of a variety of rich individuals and co-operations. The Lib Dems received almost £5.5 million pounds in donation in the year preceding the recent General Election.

The Green Party, however, refuse to exchange principle for profit. We propose a rate of 50% tax on those who earn over 50K a year, without apology.

Ted Heath may be gone but his influence lives on with the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats
Unlike the Green Party Martyn policy in the Liberal Democrats is not made by the leader. A Commission has been set up to look at tax policy and in due course it will report and make recommendations for the Party's policy Committee and Conference to consider. In the meantime the proposals we fought the General Election on remain party policy.

I should add that there are at least four years to the next election. Circumstances in 2009 may have changed radically and it is impossible to say what policy any party will go into that election with, on taxation or any other subject.
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