We have all seen the Liberal Democrat Party losing its grip on reality during its years in Coalition with the Conservatives.
One of my favourite examples of this was the claim that the Lib Dems had mitigated the hated Health and Social Care Bill (as it was then) – Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation effort – to ensure that rampant privatisation would not take place, and that they could therefore vote in favour of it with a clear conscience.
Earlier this year, of course, we all learned about SI 257, the statutory instrument that would have imposed mandatory marketisation on nearly every NHS service, without the requirement of a Parliamentary debate or vote. Clearly the Lib Dems had been hoodwinked. There was a massive public campaign against this betrayal and SI 257 was withdrawn, but only to be replaced by something that was so vaguely-worded that it is almost as bad (possibly worse, in fact).
Now, they’re crowing about the fact that the Personal Allowance – the amount a person can earn before paying Income Tax – has risen to £9,440. Apparently this means people on low incomes are now £600 per year better off than they were at the time of the last general election, in 2010.
But wait! What about all the benefit changes – by which I mean cuts – that came in at the same time? We’ve all seen the figures that show they will make low-earners £891 per year WORSE-off.
Put those together and, no matter which way you slice it, people earning less than £9,440 will be up to £291 worse off than in 2010.
Meanwhile, the top rate of Income Tax has fallen from 50p in the pound to 45p, for people with incomes of more than £150,000 – that means people earning more than £1 million will be £100,000 better-off.
Danny Alexander was on Radio 4’s Today programme, trying to talk up the changes. He said the Coalition “is working hard to help those on low and middle incomes” – into poverty?
Other changes mean the amount pensioners can take home every year will no longer rise with inflation but has been frozen, meaning they will be worse-off this year. It has been dubbed the “Granny Tax”. They do get a rise in the state pension, by 2.5 per cent – but that only equals £110 per week.
And Mr Alexander was also keen to talk about the so-called “Tycoon Tax”, which imposes a limit on the amount of tax relief people can claim by investing in business or donating to charity.
This – again – avoids the possible consequences of such a measure. How many businesses and charities will fall into difficulty because benefactors no longer have the financial incentive to help them out? I’m not sure, so I am unwilling to condemn it immediately – but I fear the worst.
One conclusion we can draw from this – and previous changes – is the obvious:
Liberal Democrats ignore their mistakes.
The denial machine is not only in full swing – it’s in danger of overheating.