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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Winning trust

I meant to blog this much earlier but I have spent the day wrestling with pagemaker and a temperamental risograph and time rather ran away with me.

The Observer reports that Simon Hughes signalled yesterday that he was ready to ditch the party's proposal for a new 50p top band on income tax. Their view that this is a dramatic move towards the party's modernisers however, is a bit simplistic even for the media.

The party is already carrying out a fundamental review of its economic and tax policies, nothing is sacrosanct and nor should it be. However, as Simon makes clear, the overall direction most members wish to go in involves a fair and progressive taxation system that helps the poorest people in our society:

Hughes said he was not abandoning his commitment to 'a fairer society' and narrowing the gap between rich and poor, which had grown under both Tory and Labour governments.

But rather than focus on raising the top level of personal income tax, his main aim would be to remove the poorest people from paying the tax altogether. There were areas where additional revenue might be raised, including environmental taxes and possible windfall levies, he suggested.

Nobody should assume that the economic policies we fought the 2005 election on will hold good in 2009 or 2010. As with the other parties, the next few years will be a period in which we redefine our policies and what we want them to achieve in the light of the changing circumstances of the time, our policies and our principles.

All of the leadership contenders recognise this and are articulating their approach as part of the debate this contest is stimulating. What is reassuring is that even for the 'orange-bookers' the ultimate aim is equality and social justice.

What is also useful about this discussion is the way that environmental objectives are coming to the fore. We may not have wanted this leadership contest but it is giving publicity to our ideas and policies that we could only have dreamed about when thie policy review process was started.
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