We have lost many good councillors, and clearly the electors are handing out an equal share of the blame to Liberal Democrat candidates as to Tories for the way Messrs Cameron and Osborne are going about the task of eliminating the deficit. We have been given no credit for mitigating the worst effects of Tory-inspired legislation on health, welfare and the justice system, or for LibDem-inspired ideas like the Pupil Premium and the reduction of taxes on low-paid workers, because people aren't aware of the role we have played in the Coalition. We have tried to explain it, but the media aren't interested.
What the Party needs in the second half of this Parliament is an easily understood objective that distinguishes us from the Tories, a principle that we will apply to all the decisions we have to make on Government business from now on. As I have said here before, there is plenty of evidence [http://bit.ly/bmk8Z] that in more equal societies:
- People live longer, a smaller proportion of children die in infancy and self-rated health is better
- They are far less likely to experience mental illness.
- They are less likely to use illegal drugs.
- Children do better at school in more equal societies.
- A lower proportion of people are imprisoned
- Obesity is less common
- There is more social mobility
- Communities are more cohesive and people trust each other more
- Homicide rates are lower and children experience less violence
- Teenage motherhood is less common
- Unicef measures of child
wellbeing are better
Therefore, we should apply this test to all Government measures: do they promote greater equality, or greater inequality,and we should support or oppose them on that basis. The abolition of the 50p tax rate, for instance, should be opposed, as should any further reductions in benefit. We should promote measures to get people back into paid employment, particularly when they concentrate on helping people at the bottom of the income scale, such as the building of affordable dwellings, and in order to compensate for the additional spending, we should increase taxes on the rich and on the agents of self-harm - alcohol, tobacco, salt, fats and fast food.
LibDem policy has always been to create equality of opportunity. Since the evidence shows that greater equality means greater equality of opportunity, we must believe in promoting equality itself, and in doing so, we can mark out a distinctive territory that will allow us to escape being tarred with the Tory brush.