Goodbye Tories. Hello Liberal Democrats!

Well, its been coming. Another insignificant Twitter defection. I won’t pretend that me jumping across to the Coalition’s junior Party means anything will change, or that anybody even cares about me doing so. But, I do write here often. Surprisingly, and thankfully a couple of hundred of you give me a read every now and then. So here’s my explanation on why I’ll be joining the Liberal Democrats.

I’ve always classed myself as a Liberal, but thought myself to be too Right-wing for the Liberal Democrats. But this definition of right and left is far too simplistic, and deeply confuses the matter. I’ve always been a huge fan of David Laws (ignoring his expenses fiasco) he is a superb politician and a great thinker. His work in the Orange Book along with Nick Clegg et al. is to be admired. I fully consider myself to be an Orange Booker. I have a liberal approach not only to social issues, but to economics. I am pro-business, pro-wealth and pro-growth and it is these economic believes have kept me in the Conservatives. Recent tax cuts are taking a step towards this. But I want more than that, I want lower taxes – for everybody. I understand, and support the Laffer curve principle for why the Coalition cut the top rate of tax from 50% to 45%, but just because the rich can avoid tax doesn’t mean they should be the only people to benefit from a tax cut in these difficult times. We should be cutting taxes across the board and encouraging people to spend and start up businesses.

Now this has been coming for a while, and it takes a lot of honesty and self-assessment to really admit this…

What is it about the Coalition that I like? Liberal Democrat policies. It was the Liberal Democrats who have taken millions out of income tax all together, not the Conservatives. They at least attempted to push for political reform.They are pushing for House of Lords reform, something I have argued for. I was a keen supporter of Yes2AV, putting me once more against the Conservatives. They introduced the pension reform which re-introduced the triple lock. The pupil premium helps gives kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a real chance in education. The Lib Dems have consistently pushed for more accountable democracy and are truly concerned about every member of society, not just big business, the unions, the rich or the Murdochs.

More concerning for me, what is it about the Coalition I don’t like? They are ALL Conservative politics. Tax breaks for married couples, equating to social engineering.  The NHS reform was a shambles, badly communicated, it will more than likely be badly administered. It offered top down reform, breaking a pre-election pledge. It increased the bureaucracy and pissed off everybody within the NHS.  Authoritarian extensions of Labour’s snooping laws, something they opposed in Opposition. Minimum alcohol pricing is deeply illiberal. Now they are talking about banning porn on the internet and blocking certain websites. North Korea must be thinking they are going to have some buddies in Europe soon. It turns out this Conservative government only pays lip service to liberalism, something I can no longer be a party to.

Things that worry me about both Parties? Further encroachment towards the EU. Yet, the Liberal Democrats support a referendum. I’m not a fan of referendums on the whole (I think those with vested interests can pour too much money into the debate – see AV referendum) but on remaining members of the European Union I feel that it is vital for the people of the UK to have their say. Increased borrowing – I can barely tolerate it, but if we simply cut away at the state in the manner some libertarians and UKIPers wanted, I honestly think there would be anarchy. You cannot simply cut, cut and cut public spending, sadly we are too reliant on it. To pull the rug from underneath the public sector would leave a sorry mess. We should continue to cut at the pace we are doing now, any further and we could be guilty of going “too far, too fast.” The Coalition is held together by a paper-thin promise to cut the deficit, and they are on track to do so by 2016. This has to remain the economic priority.

The Conservatives have taken a battering in the Local Elections, and already they cry for more “conservatism.” This is the tipping point for me, I want less conservatism and more liberalism. And that my friends, is why I will be joining the Liberal Democrats.

I have some friends in the Conservatives who will be reading this and I honestly think they will agree with me on a lot of what I’ve said, it’ll  be interesting if they take the leap with me. I’ll be looking to join up with the people at Liberal Reform and I hope they’ll join me!

Come 2015 I will be campaigning for the Liberal Democrats. Oh, and somebody owes me a meeting with David Laws!

Dismantling UKIP Policies

UKIP are often seen by many in Britain as “BNP-Lite” or “Racists in suits”. This is both a gross misrepresentation and in reality a bit of a slur. Yes, there are xenophobes in UKIP, not helped by the perception that they are a one issue party – namely the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. But, there are bad eggs in every group.

But this post isn’t a defence of UKIP. I want to expose some of the problems with their other official policies. In fact, I won’t even talk about Europe.

UKIP on Same-Sex Marriage

UKIP members on Twitter at least are proud to claim that UKIP is the home of the “natural conservative” – well today they’ve proved that. If you are in fact socially conservative and you are against same-sex marriage, then yes, UKIP is for you.  And yet, UKIP claims to be a libertarian party. Libertarians’ response to same-sex marriage would be that it is no business of the state, and people can do as they please. UKIP’s stance is totally illiberal and socially conservative. Sadly for UKIP this is an outdated, archaic argument only really being proposed by people who miss the bigoted days of the 1970s. Read a great piece on why they are wrong to do so here.

UKIP on Taxation

UKIP want to merge Income Tax and National Insurance. This is actually a great idea. Its an idea supported by the Tax Payers Association.

The next bit though, not so much. They want a flat tax of 31% on any income over £11,500. Whilst taking people out of tax all together is admirable, it is already being done by the Coalition to £10,000. The problem is that a flat tax is disproportionally harsh on lower income earners. It doesn’t take a lot to tweak this policy. Raise the threshold even further and implement a smaller progressive tax breaks.

UKIP on Immigration

They want to “end mass, uncontrolled unemployment”. Well sadly for them, they can’t. EU law allows freedom of movement, that wouldn’t be a problem for when they leave the EU. (Okay one mention of the EU) Immigration is good for the UK economy. Don’t believe all the bile that people come out with that claims otherwise. It’s false. One UKIPer comments underneath their policy that “Brits are losing they’re ‘Britishness” – Face and palm! Jesus Christ. There’s a brief critique of UKIP’s Conference’s talks on immigration here.

UKIP on Health

Definitely one of UKIPs strong points. They want to reduce bureaucracy and make no front line cuts to the NHS. This SHOULD be the Coalition’s policy. I don’t understand why it is isn’t. They want to “improve patient choice by introducing ‘Health Credit Vouchers’, which will enable people to opt out of the NHS public healthcare system entirely if they so wish. UK citizens will apply to their GP for vouchers that can be paid to the private health insurer of their choice.” Another good policy, its almost a piece-meal move to David Laws’ National Health Insurance Scheme. 

Of course this is just a few points on UKIP policies, sadly I don’t have time to continue. Maybe soon I’ll edit and repost this!

A Liberal Future For The NHS.

Those crying out for Andrew Lansley to be sacked and the for the NHS bill to be dropped have my full support. But who, and potentially what will come next will really get them worried. If Cameron does bite the bullet and relieves Lansley of his post, there’s only one man for the job, and that man will give the NHS lovers real nightmares.

Of course I am talking about David Laws. Friends and followers will know I’m a big fan of David Laws’ ideology so this will come as no surprise. I think we should drop this piecemeal NHS reform bill and introduce a radical National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as described by David Laws in the Orange Book.

The NHS is almost untouchable in UK politics, its taboo to even talk about reforming it. And yet, it has many flaws that everybody is well aware off, long waiting times, cancelled appointments, endless tiers of bureaucracy are faults that nobody can deny. Yes the NHS is a bastion of free health-care to all at the point of access, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better.

The NHIS would be compulsory for every UK citizen. People would be able take insurance out in the NHS, the private sector, or the not for profit sector, allowing for the first time, real competition in the UK’s health-care market.

Insurers would have to accept any applicant, regardless of risk, and every year patients would be allowed to change providers.

All schemes would have to have the same maximum charge for all mainstream services, but additional charges are allowed for extra services or amenities on request, meaning that anybody still wanting to go private (in the sense we know it now) could do so. The state would pay the annual charge for the mainstream services. These points make sure that health-care remains free at the point of access to all.

NHIS would be paid for by altering the tax system in the UK. Currently we have income and national insurance as personal taxes. These would be altered and then a NHIS tax would be included. Crucially the taxes would remain progressive, further enshrining real fairness into the system.

The job of the Secretary of State for Health would be to make sure that independent regulators were doing their job properly. Their role would be to calculate the maximum levy charged by all insurers, and publish performance results of insurers.

Politicians would no longer have to worry about the political graveyard that is the NHS, it would cease to have any influence over it, ensuring that health-care in the UK was dictated by the patients, not politicians.

The scheme is a great idea, it imparts real competition in the health-care service, whilst enshrining fairness at its core. It is a true liberal vision for the future.