Nick Clegg’s interview in today’s Independent is rather more subtle on tax than the headline “I won’t let Osborne cut 50p tax” suggests. For in fact the story goes on to say:
Mr Clegg made clear that the Liberal Democrats would back abolition of the 50p rate in the long run only if it is not raising much revenue and if it is replaced by new taxes on “unearned income”. These could include a 1 per cent annual “mansion tax” on homes worth more than £2m, a land tax, and restricting tax relief on pensions to the basic 20p rate.
In other words, no to a simple cut in the top tax rate but yes to the possibility of a package deal in the future that gives the Tories what they want (end to the 50p rate), combined with higher wealth taxes to make for a fairer overall tax system (what the Liberal Democrats want).
All that reinforces my view that it is a shame forms of wealth tax are not on the agenda here at the Liberal Democrats conference because:
Amongst Liberal Democrats the question of what wealth taxes to support is deeply controversial … Some are very keen on a land value tax, but it is a concept that is often ridiculed by others in the party (perhaps unfairly, though it has to be said that some of the land value tax campaigners do little to rebut the view that it is an eccentric policy). Vince Cable’s talk of a mansion tax before the last general election was not helped by a rushed and bungled consultation within the party, but even a perfectly paced and conducted consultation would not have avoided opposition – especially from those in the party who prefer more bands on council tax to any sort of mansion tax, whether it is on their values or on profits from their sale.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in today’s Independent it would appear I am “a Liberal Democrat with a nerd’s eye for odd facts”. Ahem. Guilty as charged.