Lord Jacobs becomes rightwingers’ new poster child

The Times reports that Lord Jacobs has quit the party to sit as a crossbencher on the grounds that the party’s position on tax does not include tax cuts for the rich, paid for (if Lord Rennard is to be believed) by a 6p hike in NIC. Despite Sam Coates’ best attempts to dress this story up into another typical Times piece of donor porn (I was half-expecting the piece to start going on about the quality of the soft-furnishings in his central London home and to coo erotically over the prospect of him owning a yacht), it hardly looks damaging for the party. Old man in a hurry throws toys out of pram. Shrug.

What is rather more interesting has been the reaction on Lib Dem Voice. The general reaction has been one of bemusement, but Tim Leunig leapt to Jacob’s defence:

It is easy to rush to attack someone who is leaving, but I think this is a bit churlish. Lord Jacobs has worked very hard for the party over the past twenty years, in financial and other ways. He is not someone who turned up, donated £100k one day and became a Lord the next without understanding or supporting our principles. When someone that committed leaves the sensible thing is to sit them down and talk to them. Because who knows, they may be representative of a chunk of the party.

Except that, um, no-one was attacking him. Later still, Oranjepan quipped:

“…Jacobs his obviously flounced off in a huff…”

Oh dear, I don’t think anyone could seriously believe that (I mean seriously!).

For someone who has been around our party (and forebears) for so long he is clearly aware of our role in the process and pragmatic enough not to have walked away during more contentious times.

Jacobs clearly sees some other merit in these actions as he is still overtly supportive, so I think it will be interesting to see whether he continues to be a donor to the party… wheels with wheels…

My feeling is that he has deliberately isolated himself in order to open up a debate on this issues. If the Fabians and others are coming out in favour of Clegg’s leadership then these manoeuvers demonstrate clear political dexterity and a full awareness of how opinion is formed.

At age 77 such a principled gambit should be applauded and it shows he has both the nous and the cojones to make one more throw of the dice.

I genuinely don’t understand this. Cutting personal taxes by raising employer NIC is not a tax cut at all. To use Osborne-esque rhetoric, it is a tax con. It would massively increase the cost of employing people. Those who weren’t made redundant as a result of the hike would find their wages suppressed over the medium term and find themselves no better off over the longer term. And what is this to pay for? A tax cut for the pensions of the wealthy.

I can understand why an old school Tory would be attracted to such an idea – as I said before they aren’t the free marketeers they are often portrayed as – but why would an economic liberal be attracted to it?

It does seem, superficially at least, that they got drawn in by the Times (and Jacobs’ own) spin about tax cuts and thought they would portray him as some kind of martyr of the right. The enemies’ enemy is my friend, and all that. It is quite curious and generally surprising. I look forward to seeing if this is the start of a discernable pattern with interest.


  1. Quite right and the obvious question is why now?? I cant beleive that there isnt alot more to this than is in the public domain; that he isnt intending to join another party at a possibly later stage.

  2. I agree with Darrell – there’s definitely more to this than tax. Most specifically, I cannot see how our tax policies have become more timid, or that they don’t really reflect the principles of the party. I suspect he was hoping for a right-wing lurch under Clegg and its absence has combined with a personal dislike or disagreement of some kind.

  3. James: Several people attacked him in the comments:
    “So the story is rich donor leaves party because we don’t believe in giving more money to the rich? Am I bovvered?”
    “He sounds rather confused”
    “He does seem rather out of touch ”
    “not throw your toys out of the pram and wail to the first journalist you come across”
    Later on in the thread Matthew H urged him to be honest, implying that he was not being, and others agreed with Matthew on this.

    We can argue over whether these are attacks, but all I was trying to say was that when someone who has stood by the party through thick and thin, and done so much for it, decides to leave, it is worth sitting down and talking to them in detail. If you are still in the party in 30 years time and then leave, I will say the same thing about you! It doesn’t mean I endorse his view, or yours, but a party should always take seriously those of good standing who decide to leave.

    As Simon said, “it is never nice to see a long-term supporter leave. I don’t like the sound of his tax plan but I hope that he comes around to our point of view and rejoins the side of liberalism. I don’t like the spectacle to people piling on when a long-standing member goes.”

  4. Tim, Chris Rennard suggested that Lord Jacobs had a plan for a big switch of taxation onto employers’ National Insurance Contribution. Well, if Lord Jacobs thinks that’s a good idea, hasn’t been able to convince the Liberal Democrat leadership to play with it, but wants to be free to promote it – fine, I can see that would be a reason for leaving the Liberal Democrats in order to have the freedom to speak his own mind.

    However, that is NOT how it was put in the press. It was put in the press that Lord Jacobs was leaving because he wanted big tax cuts, and not because he wanted the tax to be raised in a different way. That is where I am calling on Lord Jacobs to be honest – if it is as Chris Rennard has told us, that’s very differenmt from how the press have put it.

    By the way, I myself am someone who “who has stood by the party through thick and thin, and done so much for it” and, after 30 years membership, am coming very close to leaving it. Would you say about me “it worth sitting down and talking in detail”? When I have tried to explain why I am so unhappy with the Liberal Democrats, all I am getting from the free market fundamentalists whose recent appearance in the party is one of the reasons I am now so unhappy with it is “good riddance”.

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