One of the things that I think many of us with both a heart and a decency disposition would agree on is that many of the policies by the previous coalition government of both Conservative and Liberal Democrats were by far some of the worse things we have seen a government do in recent times.
The previous Government told us at the time that they had two main aims. These were to tackle the country’s debts (not caused by poor people) and to reform welfare (mainly used by poor people). The coalition in their first budget raised VAT to 20% (which hits the poorest hardest), they increased Capital Gains Tax, increased the Personal Allowance and cut Corporation Tax and reduced the 50p rate for those earning £150.000. While the raising of the Personal Allowance was welcome and lauded by the Liberal Democrats it was more than written off by the changes to Tax Credits which saw millions of families lose their Tax Credits all together. Taking into account the VAT Hike and change in personal allowance, on average families were still worse off by around £1,335 a year. Now for me, this means that the poorest were paying for what was basically criminal activity by the bankers and a disgusting agenda of social reform by the Government.
When you add in the billions of cuts in government spending on non protected services such as social care, housing etc it would be fair to claim that the economic recovery (if there actually is one outside London) has come about not as a result of the genius of George Osborne but on the backs on those with the very least and those with no way of defending themselves. Now I don’t take as much pleasure as some members of the Liberal Democrats regarding how much they tamed the Tories, but I do accept that they slowed them down a little in what can only be described as an agenda of attacking both the state and the poor and vulnerable, and at a very heavy cost to the Liberal Democratic Party.
However, now that the new loving, caring, working man Conservative Party have a majority we are about to see the sequel ‘Attacking the Poor and the Vulnerable Part Two ‘. Today it has been reported that George Osborne is considering a further £5 Billion in cuts to Tax Credits, this will see around 3 million families lose a further £1,400 pounds a year. The Scottish Government block grant is to be cut by a further £100 million, freezing of child benefit, on top of the 12 Billion Cut to Welfare already announced will result in more unemployment, more poverty, more foodbanks, poor outcomes and the list goes on.
Tim Farron, one of the leadership contenders for the Liberal Democrats, noted that Liberal Democrats “did not have the faintest clue” what the Liberal Democrats stood for during the election campaign and I totally agree with him. Tim Farron also noted that “We have to convince people to vote for us because of what we stand for, not just because they don’t like the incumbent.” Again something that we have got to take on board if we are to survive as a party in the UK and in Scotland in particular.
In his Beveridge Lecture (http://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farrons-beveridge-lecture-in-full-lets-say-a-huge-yes-to-active-ambitious-liberal-government-and-build-a-new-consensus-41659.html) in July 2014 Tim put forward, in my opinion, a Social Liberal vision that we have to aspire to if we are to ensure that the Liberal voice is both relevant and vital in this new Conservative nightmare. Now I suspect that not even Tim will agree with everything I have blogged here but I do feel that his way is the way forward for the Liberal Democrats.
Lets make no mistake, we are about to face the largest attack on our well being and social fabric that we have ever seen. I thought Thatcher was bad but this current bunch of Conservatives would not look out of place joining with UKip in my opinion. So what I am saying is the Liberal message is worth listening to, Tim Farron is worth listening to, without this alternative message we are doomed I say doomed. Lets work hard in Scotland and across the UK when and where appropriate to put forward our vision that values everyone in society and stands up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.