Danny Alexander is clearly super-keen to remind everyone of what the Lib Dem slogan is for their party conference, which begins on Saturday. ‘We need fairer taxes in these tough times,’ he told the Evening Standard today as he revealed that he will use his speech at the ‘fairer tax in tough times’ conference to call for the income tax threshold to rise to £10,000.
The rise that George Osborne announced in this year’s Budget was largely claimed by the Lib Dems as their own policy, and was a diamond in the rough of a deeply unpopular budget. That the Chief Secretary to the Treasury is tabling a motion to his conference about raising the level again from £9,205 to £10,000 shows the party wants to get in there first and continue to claim credit for this policy which, as Tim Montgomerie pointed out back in April, Conservatives are equally happy about. After all, the policy was first proposed by a Tory peer: Lord Saatchi wrote a pamphlet in 2001 for the Centre for Policy Studies called ‘Poor People! Stop Paying Tax!’.
This isn’t part of the junior coalition partner’s differentiation strategy, it’s part of their push to claim back some of the good things from government, as well as taking the flak for tuition fees, the NHS and other unpopular policies. Expect a push back from Tory MPs such as Robert Halfon and Charlie Elphicke who have also made the case for tax cuts for low earners.
UPDATE, 7.30pm: Halfon gets in touch to point out that ‘this has been a priority for many Conservatives for some years now’. He adds:
‘For tax cuts to work, we have to show that they are a moral creed, designed to help the poor. ‘Lower taxes for lower earners’ should be a Tory battle cry.’