Wednesday, 14 July 2010

First CGT, now VAT, what next?

The Lib Dems are holding an awayday tomorrow on the coalition, which I can't go to because of my day job. As possibly the Federal Policy Committee's longest-serving member, I call on them to come up with a solution on how to handle our coalition partners (at Westminster level but certainly not at mine!) when they try to depart from the coalition agreement. A solution means stopping them from doing it. For me, it is hard enough to accept that we helped the Tories into Downing Street and are helping keep them there. I can accept it on the basis that each side did a deal whereby a mix of policies derived from each side would become the new programme, and that the coalition agreement sets out that deal. And an Englishman's word is his bond, or at any rate the best of them's is. But almost as soon as the ink was dry on the coalition agreement, the coalition started departing from it. I can understand this if a new unforeseen circumstance ("Events, dear boy, events") forces a new policy response. But what was new in the scenario affecting capital gains tax? We are told that the 28% CGT rate for non-business gains is the optimum rate because if any higher, the government would lose revenue. What is the new evidence for this and where is it from? I am sceptical whether there is any. I question whether that claim is more than, in reality, an excuse, no a pretext, for the Tories getting their way on keeping the tax light on the well-off in society who are their main support base. That is I suppose to be expected of them, but given that it is contrary to the express terms of the coalition agreement, why are our people supporting it? Equally puzzling is last night's vote on Value Added Tax or VAT, but for a slightly different reason - it is not mentioned in the coalition agreement at all. I have searched the entire coalition agreement and nowhere is VAT mentioned. Not once. So why are our Westminster MPs obediently voting for it? They have no obligation to do so if it is not agreed. What is going to be the next thing that is not Lib Dem policy, but that the Tories get our MPs to vote for? And can they justify that to the Federal Policy Committee, the party members (e.g. me) who worked and worked so hard to get them into Parliament and the electorate? If so, how?