Thursday, March 24, 2005

One reason to vote Liberal Democrat

Possibly the only time I will ever urge voters to support the Liberal Democrats, but I agree with Jackie Ashley in the Guardian today as she comes out as a LibDem voter, but only to keep a Tory out of parliament.

The top ten list of reasons to vote Liberal Democrat are crowd-pleasers, no less than some of the policies proposed by Labour and the Tories.

An example is the proposal to bung an extra £25 on the weekly state pension and take pensioners off means testing. At first, an attractive idea, until you understand that means testing directs money towards those who need it most. Universal benefits spread the jam thinly to everybody - even to the richest pensioners who don't need it. Part of the problem with means testing is that many current pensioners remember what it used to be like. A man from the council (for it was always a man in those days) would come round and look around your house. If there were two of you and you had four chairs, he might suggest that you sell one to raise money before you would get any help. It was a degrading and nasty experience, calculated to keep costs low.

We need more imagination and joined-up thinking in government - I want to see benefits procedures streamlined. Why complete two or three forms, when one will suffice? By all means, invest some resources in guiding people through the application process, but let's make sure that the money goes to where it can do the most good.

'However much one might grind one's teeth about aspects of Labour policy, there is a consistent progressive social agenda, ranging from policy on children, through educational policy, to the tax system. It may be too timid, deformed by moments of market-mania, and sometimes shoddily marketed, but it exists.'

I will keep saying it. Is punishing Blair for the Iraq war really worth handing the country over to the neo-Thatcherites in the Tory Party? Because if you vote Liberal Democrat, that's what you are risking to salve your conscience.


john said...

The balance between means testing and universal benefits is an important issue. If you means test too much then you undermine the concept that people are thrifty in their own long term interest. That's because it is not in their long term interest.

That is why we should keep certain benefits on a non-means tested basis.

Anonymous said...

Is keeping Blair really worth it for the Labour party? If they'd got rid of him, I wouldn't be forced to vote LD.