I found myself in an unusual position a little while ago - I actually voted with the leadership of the Lib Dems in the debate on the Make It Happen values and vision paper.
Going into the conference hall, I thought it was quite likely that I would be supporting the motion, against the amendment which sought to say that tax cuts are a lesser priority than efforts to reduce inequality, invest in renewable energy and support public services. However, I wasn't completely certain and made up my mind during the debate.
It was an immensely high-quality debate - the sort you never get nowadays at either the Tory or Labour conferences. There were some excellent points made by people supporting the amendment, with Roger Roberts, Duncan Brack and Evan Harris all making terrific contributions.
However, I was convinced to vote against the amendment by speeches from Jo Swinson, Chris Huhne and my old mate Tim Farron. Tim's speech was probably the best of the whole debate, and in the end his point saying that it was a false choice between overall tax cuts and efforts to reduce inequality was what finally made up my mind. I also agreed with him that it felt a little awkward not to be part of the awkward squad.
I have to say that I think the differences between the two sides were actually fairly small. The supporters of the amendment were saying that overall tax cuts were a lesser priority than some other things. But what the main motion was saying was that we will try and identify areas for savings, which we will then direct towards our other priorities. If there is then anything left over after that, then we will seek to reduce taxes overall. I don't think there is a huge gulf between those positions.
But one point we do need to bear in mind is that with government borrowing levels the way they are, I think we will find it immensely difficult to find spare cash to reduce taxes. Yes, by all means make the effort to do so, but with our spending commitments (eg investment in renewable energy) and the budget deficit, overall tax cuts will be easier said than done.
The Second Referendum, or, Obliquity
2 weeks ago