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Monday, March 24, 2014

A Liberal Democrats budget to be proud of

With Labour apparently shocked into silence on the budget, the Telegraph nails precisely why the Liberal Democrats should be proud of their influence on government.

In an interview with Danny Alexander they underline how the central policy behind the budget came from the Liberal Democrats:

Conservatives often praise Nick Clegg’s closest ally as a natural Tory. His Lib Dem colleagues sometimes complain that he has gone native and become Mr Osborne’s useful idiot, helping to implement Tory policies. “If I let insults and jibes bother me I’d have long since abandoned this office,” he laughs. He replies that the number of Lib Dem ideas being implemented by the Treasury suggest it is Mr Osborne who has gone yellow, a proposition quite a few Tories would agree with. They are different politicians from “very different backgrounds”, he says, “but we both have a shared wish to do the right thing for the British economy”. They both shaped the Budget, even if Mr Osborne gets most of the credit.

“I really believe the economy would not be recovering if it was not for the Lib Dems.” Every aspect of government economic policy he attributes to his party’s influence on the Coalition. He just needs to “tell people much more vigorously and directly the difference that we Lib Dems are making.” Take the increase in the personal allowance.

He and Mr Clegg argued months ago for it to be raised even further than £10,000, to £10,500. The idea it was a Tory idea, as Mr Osborne has tried to imply, “is just nonsense”.

“I’m very grateful for the help of the Conservatives in delivering this Lib Dem policy, but there is a difference between doing something because you want to and doing something because you have to. And they have to because we want to, and that’s the way it works.”

Suggesting that the Tories dance to a Lib Dem tune will not endear Mr Alexander to his Coalition partners. But his point is that raising the personal allowance was a specifically Lib Dem policy, one of its conditions for agreeing to the Coalition in 2010. “We forced that idea on to the agenda. No one was really talking about thresholds before we made it a key promise in 2010.” He says that whereas the Lib Dems are focused on the allowance, the Tories appear to have different priorities on tax, from inheritance tax to the 40p higher rate.

Yet he reveals there was no attempt by Mr Osborne to raise the issue of the 40p rate in the Budget negotiations. Despite all the pressure from some Tory MPs, “there’s never been a specific idea put forward to really do something about the 40p rate,” he says.

Coalition works and it is the Liberal Democrats who are making it work so as to deliver a stronger economy and a fairer society.
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