Daily Archives: 13 February 2006

Lloyd George would approve

Far be it for me to get a reputation as a nay-sayer all the time. I have just read the three leadership contender’s positions on land value taxation (courtesy of ALTER) and pronounce myself Well Pleased.

There are subtle differences. I’m not entirely sure about Ming/Cable’s line that LVT should be set nationally rather than locally so as to not be seen to be doing a u-turn on LIT. We are already committed to SVR at a local level to replace business rates, and thus it would be a very minor tweak to extend it to households too. On the other hand, I entirely welcome the fact that they are considering national LVT, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain. If anything, Chris Huhne’s line is actually the weakest of the three (although none of the candidates are unequivocally in support).

There are two points to take from this: firstly, none of the candidates need ALTER’s few votes to get them elected, so one can only conclude that this consensus suggests a genuine change of opinion within the Parliamentary Party over the past few years. The headbangers who insisted we drop all property taxation and adopt the taxation policies of a Socialist Utopia are in decline. Secondly, with all of the candidates in agreement, there should be a real pressure on the tax commission to subsequently act on it.

As the opposite is always assume I will again make myself clear: I am not opposed to LIT per se, indeed I very much endorse Chris Huhne’s tax commission proposals to substantially devolve income tax to a local level (doubling or even trebling our current commitment of 3.5p in the pound to be raised locally). I happen to think that taxing land at the same time should be seen as a complementary policy.

The Lib Dems need to be aware that there is significant movement within the Labour Party on this. The latest edition of Renewal includes an article on LVT, the IPPR have just published a collection of essays and Iain McLean has written a piece for Compass on the subject (word). The New Statesman is a supporter (or at least, it was under Peter Wilby), along with respected figures such as the FT’s Martin Wolfe and Samuel Brittain.

True, so far the best they’ve come up with is the Barking Planning Gain Supplement, but I strongly suspect that Brown is listening to the debate and taking notes. When he finally does come up with some kind of plan, wouldn’t it be better to already be there in front of him?

Scots Man Speak Um Forked Tongue

Have you read the Times over the last few months? You have? Then, you’ll know that it has a very simple prescription for what the Lib Dems should do. Essentially it is this: dump all that social liberal nonsense, embrace economic liberalism and turn ourselves into the UK equivalent of the German FDP. The shorthand they use for this is “modernisation.”

So, when Ming starts crowing about how the Times has not only backed him, but is emphasising his “modernising” agenda, one can only conclude that his campaign is speaking in the same code. Except of course that they will deny it.

In many respects, this endorsement is more damning than Toynbee’s endorsement of Chris Huhne – note how Chris’ campaign team chose not to mention that endorsement on their website (very wise). In the past I have dismissed sentiments such as John Harris’ claim that Ming is the “Orange Book Trojan Horse” as a) not understanding what the Orange Book is and b) overestimating the so-called “Orange Bookers.” But this decision to wear the Times’ badge with pride does rather lend credence that it is David Laws, not Shirley Williams, who has got Ming’s ear.

Put simply: what does it say about Ming that he is happy to accept the endorsement of both the Guardian and the Times? We have reached the limits of the “all things to all people” approach, and it is time we defined ourselves better. Both papers endorse Ming for entirely different reasons: who is he going to disappoint?