A taxing question: The Liberal Democrats are right to push to raise further the threshold at which people start to pay tax

Nick Clegg has little to gain from claiming co-ownership of austerity economics

Share

One of the Coalition government’s most welcome achievements is the degree to which it has lifted the burden of tax on low earners. When the Tories and Liberal Democrats took office three years ago, Britons started paying income tax at a level of only £6,474. Next March, the benchmark will have risen to £10,000. Now the Liberals Democrats want to go a stage further by nudging it up to £10,500.

Raising the tax bar is a thoroughly good idea. It validates work, offering some reward to people on modest incomes who might otherwise be tempted to forget holding down a job, and just live off benefits.

At the same time, it is good politics for the Liberal Democrats, who need to go into the next election with a flagship policy, and will be aiming to present themselves as the party that took millions of people out of the tax system. If he gets his way on this point, Nick Clegg will be hoping that the 500,000 or so more people taken out of taxation as a result of this reform will remember their benefactor. The timing of the change couldn’t be better for him, either. If it makes it into the next Budget, it will take effect just before the election.

With only 18 months to polling day, all the main parties are scouring the terrain for big issues that voters identify as priorities, over which they can claim political ownership. Evidently, the C0nservatives under David Cameron will be campaigning as the party whose dogged pursuit of austerity got the economy off the rocks. However, Nick Clegg has little to gain from claiming co-ownership of the austerity economics. In the absence of a feel-good factor, Liberal Democrats scent few potential votes in it, and suspect that people who view cutting the deficit as crucial are likely to vote for the Tories in any case.

Instead, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband will be battling it out on similar territory, over the cost of living. With Labour trying to maintain the surge it has gained from pledging to freeze energy bills – this week moving the focus on to  a guarantee of free child care for up to 25 hours a week – the Liberal Democrats have their work cut out keeping tax in the public eye.

The Labour leader’s ambitious pledges to cut living costs are not the only problem facing Mr Clegg. As the Tories find the struggle to bank any credit for turning round the economy increasingly hard going, they will be casting covetous eyes towards Liberal Democrat territory and, among other things, trying to remind voters that it was a Tory Chancellor, George Osborne, who made reality Liberal Democrat calls to raise the tax threshold. 

Voters should not let the Conservatives get away with it. The Liberal Democrats have fought a tough corner on taxes on the poor and deserve the credit for gains that have been made. The Tories have been more enthusiastic about championing tax cuts for the rich, which is why Mr Osborne pressed on with cutting the top rate of tax from 50 to 45 per cent. Back in 2010, Mr Cameron described Liberal Democrat calls to cut tax rates at the bottom end as a nice but unaffordable idea. He has since changed his mind, but let’s not forget who persuaded him to do so.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal  

What is 4Chan? And why does it threaten women like Emma Watson?

Memphis Barker
Chuka Umunna was elected MP for Streatham in 2010  

Could flirty Chuka Umunna be worth a punt for Labour’s top job?

Matthew Norman
Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum